Mauritanian president meets with political party chiefs

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz today met with the leaders of political parties that took part in last year’s national dialogue initiative, which was boycotted by the country’s main opposition parties.

“Friday’s meeting discussed means of implementing the outcome of last year’s dialogue,” Ahmed Ould Kheiro, a coordinator for the political parties that took part in the meeting, told reporters.

The meeting, he added, had also tackled other “political and social issues”.

Held in September of last year, the initiative was attended by political parties loyal to Ould Abdel Aziz and several small opposition parties, including the People’s Progressive Alliance (led by former Parliament Speaker Massoud Ould Belkheir) and the El-Wiam Party (led by Boïdiel Ould Houmeit).

Yesterday, Culture Minister Mohamed Lemine Ould Cheikh said the outcome of last year’s dialogue “has begun being implemented”.

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At a press conference convened in Nouakchott, Ould Cheikh said that a joint committee – including representatives of various political parties – was now working to “follow up” on the initiative’s outcome.

One of the more contentious results of last year’s dialogue was a decision to hold a popular referendum on a raft of constitutional changes proposed by the president – including one calling for the dissolution of the Mauritanian Senate.

According to Mauritania’s official electoral commission, some 85 per cent of those who cast ballots in the poll – held in August of this year – voted in favour of the constitutional changes.

Despite opposition claims that the poll had been rigged, the senate (the upper house of Mauritania’s bicameral parliament) was dissolved shortly afterward in a move that drew condemnation from the country’s main opposition parties.

Ould Abdel Aziz seized power in a 2008 military coup. One year later, he won a presidential election the integrity of which has been questioned by critics.

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