Heated debate in Mauritania over Abdel Aziz's third term bid: he ‘deserved a third, a fourth or even a fifth term’ says official

Ministers have made a familiar argument in Africa - that the president should get more time "so that he can accomplish the projects he started"

THE political class in Mauritania has been embroiled in a heated debate for over a week following the proposal to remove presidential term limits to allow incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to contest for a third term in 2019.

Government members and supporters have been leading the campaign for the president to contest for a third term.

Three ministers led by Justice Minister Me Brahim Ould Daddah have been appealing for more time for Abdel Aziz “so that he can accomplish the projects he started.” The appeal which was made in parliament, raised a lot of debate from among the opposition parliamentarians as well as some from the ruling coalition. Ould Daddah noted that “nations and people are superior to the Constitution, and that in the current circumstances, it is the people who want the president to contest.”

Although acknowledging that it was illegal to violate the Constitution, the justice minister said “it was not illegal to change it.”

Addressing the media recently, Government Spokesman Mohamed Lemine Ould Cheikh noted that “a majority of Mauritanians had conviction that the president deserved a third, a fourth or even a fifth term.”

 Radical opposition parties operating under the umbrella of National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU) threatened to cut off any contact with the ruling party after members of government proposed a third term for the president. “We shall halt any contact with the ruling party if ministers do not withdraw their proposal to amend the Constitution to allow Abdel Aziz to contest for a third term,” FNDU said in a statement released last Thursday. FNDU termed the proposal as “dangerous” and a violation of the constitution as well as moral rules.”

At the same time, FNDU raised “doubts over the sincerity of the proposal by the government for a political dialogue.”

FNDU president Me Mahfoud Ould Battah said the “Mauritanian people had suffered a lot under Abdel Aziz’s regime and they will not accept that this regime remains in power with its corruption, high prices of basic products and worsening health and education standards.” Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz whose second term ends in three years, promised when he was being sworn-in in August 2014 that he will respect the term limits as defined in the constitution. 

He vowed never to support any proposal to amend the constitution, especially with regards to term limits. Article 29 of Mauritanian constitution bars the president from amending article 26 and 28 which limit the president to a five-year term, renewable only once.

READ: Another African president breaks ranks with the club, says will not seek a third term


However, in the face of recent successful changes or disregard of  constitutions in Africa to allow presidents to continue in office, from Burundi, Republic of Congo, Rwanda – and now likely Democratic Republic of Congo – it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if Abdel Aziz followed the same script.

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