Mauritania rivals postpone weekend elections to July 18 after negotiations

By Sadibou Marone, Gaea News Network
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mauritania election postponed to July 18

DAKAR, Senegal — Mauritania’s rival political factions have agreed to postpone Saturday’s scheduled presidential election until July 18, officials said Tuesday.

Senegal Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio announced the agreement after days of intense negotiations that began last week in a bid to include opposition parties who had refused to take part in the junta-organized vote.

Mauritania’s first freely elected president in decades was toppled in a coup in August. The man who ousted him, Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, gave up power in April so he would be constitutionally allowed to run in the election, which was meant to return civilian rule to the desert nation in northwest Africa.

Opposition parties initially rejected the election, saying it was being organized without their consent. Their absence would have given Aziz almost certain victory, but deprived his win of any credibility.

Tuesday’s agreement calls for the formation of a 28-member transitional government. Aziz would have the right to appoint the prime minister and half the ministers, and rival parties the rest.

If no candidate wins a majority of votes in July’s election, a second round will be held Aug. 1.

Last-minute talks to resolve the crisis began at a seaside Dakar hotel Thursday. They were organized by an international group of mediators, including representatives from the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League among others.

The African Union suspended Mauritania from membership and has imposed travel bans and asset freezes on officials involved in the coup.

After Aziz stepped down in April, power was transferred to Senate president Ba Mamadou Mbare, who became the first-ever black leader of the Arab-dominated nation, where Mauritanians of sub-Saharan descent are still marginalized. Some continue to work in conditions of familial servitude that activists call slavery.

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