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Mauritania: Mauritania Government Profile


Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (born 20 December 1956is the President of Mauritania, in office since 2009. 

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was born in Akjoujt on 20 December 1956. He joined the Royal Military Academy of Meknes, Morocco in 1977 and, after a string of promotions, established the elite BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion). 

A May 2008 article contrasted Abdel Aziz's continuing involvement at the centre of political power with Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, who had left public life. Abdel Aziz remained both advisor to the President and General, and was described as being at the nexus of "a small galaxy of other colonels, businessmen and politicians, in an uneasy balance."

Mauritania - Government

The constitution of 20 May 1961 declared Mauritania to be an Islamic republic. This constitution, which placed effective power in the hands of a president who was as well chief of the only legal political organization, the Mauritanian People's Party, was suspended in 1978 by the new military regime. Subsequently, executive and legislative powers were vested in the Military Committee for National Salvation. A draft constitution was published in 1980 but later abandoned; like the 1961 document, it called for a popularly elected president and National Assembly.

The July 1991 constitution delegates most powers to the executive. The president is to be elected by universal suffrage for a six-year term. The prime minister is appointed by the president and designated chief of government. Parliament is composed of a bicameral legislature. The Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh has 56 seats with 17 up for election each two years. Its members are elected by municipal leaders to serve six-year terms. The National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani has 79 seats with members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. These institutions pose no critical challenge and, moreover, are controlled by the president's party, though competing political parties were legalized in July 1991.

Mauritania - Political parties

As elsewhere in French West Africa, formal political movements developed in Mauritania only next World War II. Horma Ould Babana, the leader of the initial party to be established, the Mauritanian Entente, was elected to the French National Assembly in 1946. His party was considered too radical by the traditional chiefs, who organized a additional conservative party, the Mauritanian Progressive Union (UPM). The UPM won 22 of 24 seats in the 1952 elections for the Territorial Assembly. In the 1957 elections, the initial under universal adult suffrage, 33 of 34 persons elected to the Territorial Assembly were UPM members. In 1958, the UPM absorbed the weakened Entente into its organization, forming a single party, the Mauritanian Regroupment Party (PRM).

Next independence, Prime Minister Moktar Ould Daddah in May 1961 set up a presidential system of government, and in the subsequent presidential election he was the only candidate. In December 1961, a new single party was formed, the Hizb Sha'b, or Mauritanian People's Party (Parti du Peuple Mauritanien— PPM). The PPM included minority parties inclunding the PRM. By 1965, the single-party system had been established by law. President Ould Daddah was reelected in 1966, 1971, and 1976, but the PPM was dissolved next his ouster in 1978. No political parties functioned openly from 1978 until the 1991 military coup.

The Front for the Liberation of Africans in Mauritania (FLAM) was instrumental in stirring the 1989 unrest that from presently on led to multiparty elections. During this period of partisan organization, Taya formed the Democratic and Social Republican Party (Parti Republicain et Democratique Social— PRDS).

Chief part some 14 opposition parties has been the Union of Democratic Forces-(UFD), which supported the runner-up in the January 1992 presidential election and boycotted the March parliamentary election. In May 1992, the UFD changed its name to UFD-New Era. In March 1993, it was weakened by the departure of eight centrist leaders to form a new political grouping. As well active are the Rally for Democratic and National Unity (RDU), the Union for Evolution and Democracy (UPD), the Mauritanian Renewal Party (PMR), the People's Progressive Party (PPP), the Socialist and Democratic People's Union (SDPU), the Democratic Center Party (DCP), the Popular Front or FP, and El Har, a 1994 splintering of the UFD-New Era. The technically illegal Islamist party Ummah is very popular. The Action for Change (AC) party, which held four seats in the National Assembly following the October 2001 elections, was banned in January 2002.

The current Assembly is overwhelmingly dominated by the President's party, the PRDS. The prime minister since 1998 has been Cheikh El Avia Ould Mohamed Khouna.

Mauritania - Local government

Mauritania is divided into the city of Nouakchott and 12 regions, each with a governor and a commission. The regions are subdivided into 49 departments. Elections to municipal councils were held in December 1986 and again in 1992. The January– February 1994 municipal elections led to PRDS control of around 170 of the 208 municipalities, a majority retained by the PRDS in 1999. The next municipal elections are due in 2004.

Mauritania - Judicial system

The 1991 constitution completely revised the judicial system, which had before consisted of a lower court in Nouakchott, labor and military courts, a security court, and a Supreme Court in addition to qadi courts, which handled family law cases.

The revised judicial system includes lower, middle, and upper level courts, each with specialized jurisdiction. The security court was abolished, and 43 department-level tribunals presently bridge the traditional ( qadi ) and modern court systems. These courts are staffed by qadis or traditional magistrates trained in Koranic law. General civil cases are handled by 10 regional courts of initial instance. Three regional courts of appeal hear challenges to decisions at the department level. A supreme court, headed by a magistrate named by the president to a five-year term, reviews appeals taken from decisions of the regional courts of appeal.

The 1991 constitution as well established a six-member constitutional court, three members of which are named by the president, two by the national assembly president, and one by the senate president.

While the judiciary is nominally independent, it is subject to pressure and influence by the executive, which controls the appointment and dismissal of judges. The system is strongly influenced by rulings and settlements of tribal elders based on Shari'ah and tribal regulations.

The Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure were revised in 1993 to bring them into line with the guarantees of the 1991 constitution, which provides for due process of law.

Region Capital Area (sq. km) Population (2008)
Adrar Atâr 215,300 73,900
Brakna Aleg 33,800 288,700
Dakhlet Nouâdhibou {Dakhlet Nouadhibou} Nouâdhibou 22,300 118,200
El-’Açâba [Assaba] {El-Acaba} Kiffa 36,600 291,700
Gorgol Kaédi 13,600 288,500
Guidimaka Sélibaby 10,300 209,400
Hodh ech-Chargui Néma 182,700 345,300
Hodh el-Gharbi ‘Ayoûn el-Atroûs 53,400 255,800
Inchiri Akjoujt 46,800 9,940
Nouakchott Nouakchott 1,000 846,900
Tagant Tidjikdja 95,200 82,900
Tiris Zemmour Zouérat 252,900 54,100
Trarza Rosso 67,800 297,000

Source: Thomas Brinkhoff: City Population, 

Administrative divisions: 

12 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 capital district*; Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh Ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott*, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza


28 November 1960 (from France)

National holiday: 

Independence Day, 28 November (1960)



Legal system: 

a combination of Islamic law and French civil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch: 

bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; 53 members elected by municipal leaders and 3 members elected by Mauritanians abroad to serve six-year terms; a portion of seats up for election every two years) and the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani (95 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) elections: Senate - last held 21 January and 4 February 2007 (next to be held in 2009); National Assembly - last held 19 November and 3 December 2006 (next to be held in 2011); note - it is unclear when the Senate elections originally scheduled for 2009 will be held election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Mithaq (coalition of independents and parties associated with the former regime) 37, CFCD (coalition of political parties) 15, representatives of the diaspora 3, undecided 1; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Mithaq 51 (independents 37, PRDR 7, UDP 3, RDU 3, Alternative (El-Badil) 1), CFCD 41 (RFD 16, UFP 9, APP 6, Centrist Reformists 4, HATEM-PMUC 3, RD 2, PUDS 1), RNDLE 1, UCD 1, FP 1

Judicial branch: 

Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts

Political parties and leaders : 

Alternative or El-Badil [Mohamed Yahdhi Ould MOCTAR HACEN]; Centrist Reformists (independent moderate Islamists) [Mohamed Jamil MANSOUR]; Coalition for Forces for Democratic Change or CFCD (coalition of political parties including APP, Centrist Reformists (independent moderate Islamists), HATEM-PMUC, PUDS, RD, RFD, UFP); Democratic Renewal or RD [Moustapha Ould ABDEIDARRAHMANE]; Mauritanian Party for Unity and Change or HATEM-PMUC [Saleh Ould HANENA]; Mithaq (coalition of independents and parties associated with the former regime including Alternative or El-Badil, PRDR, UDP, RDU); National Pact for Democracy and Development or PNDD-ADIL (independents supporting President Abdellahi) [Yahya Ould Ahmed Ould WAGHEF]; National Rally for Freedom, Democracy and Equality or RNDLE; National Rally for Reform and Development or Tawassoul (moderate Islamists) [Mohamed Jemil Ould MANSOUR]; Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]; Popular Progressive Alliance or APP [Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR]; Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]; Rally for Democracy and Unity or RDU [Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA]; Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR [Boullah Ould MOGUEYA]; Socialist and Democratic Unity Party or PUDS; Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]; Union of Democratic Center or UCD [Cheikh Sid'Ahmed Ould BABA]; Union of the Forces for Progress or UFP [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD];

Political pressure groups and leaders: 

General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CGTM [Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, secretary general]; Independent Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CLTM [Samory Ould BEYE]; Mauritanian Workers Union or UTM [Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general] other: Arab nationalists; Ba'thists; Islamists

International organization participation: 


Flag description: 

green with a yellow five-pointed star above a yellow, horizontal crescent; the closed side of the crescent is down; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam