FACTBOX-Mauritania polls, a first step towards democracy
Published November 19th 2006 in Reuters Alert Net

Mauritania, a Saharan Islamic state straddling black and Arab Africa, held legislative and municipal elections on Sunday, its first such polls since a bloodless military coup last year.

Here are some key facts about the polls:


POLL TIMES: Polls open at 0700 GMT and close at 1900 GMT.

ELECTORATE: Some 1.07 million people are registered to vote from Mauritania's population of 3.1 million people.

METHOD: Municipal elections will be decided by proportional representation, while seats in the National Assembly will be split between proportional representation and candidates winning at least half of the votes cast. Where no candidate gains 50 percent of votes, a run-off will be held on December 3.


More than 28 parties taking part, seeking 95 National Assembly seats, for a five-year term. There are also 216 municipal councils up for grabs. By law, at least a fifth of parties' electoral lists must be composed of women.

INDEPENDENTS: More than a quarter of candidates in both ballots are independents, following a call from the military junta for alternatives to existing parties. Many independents have joined the ranks of the Assembly of Independent Candidates.

ISLAMISTS: Islamist parties are officially banned under the constitution but a moderate Muslim grouping has emerged, the Centrist Reformers. In addition, many independent candidates are regarded as moderate Islamists and several parties contain Islamist groups.

BLACK AFRICAN PARTIES: The Party for Liberty, Equality and Justice (PLEJ) and the Alliance for Justice and Democracy (AJD) are campaigning for greater rights for the country's black African majority, which has traditionally been dominated by Mauritania's ruling Moorish elite from the north.

SLAVES: The People's Progressive Alliance (APP), led by Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, is campaigning for greater rights for freed slaves, or Haratin. The party also alleges slavery remains a widespread practice.

NATIONALIST: The Republic Party for Democracy and Renewal (PRDR), the party of former president Maaouya Old Sid'Ahmed Taya, held power for more than two decades but its ranks have been depleted by defections to the independent camp.

The Assembly of Democratic Forces (RFD) led by former presidential candidate Ahamed Ould Daddah, half brother of the post independence president, was for years the opposition party.