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In 1960, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania became independent from France. The capital Nouakchott was founded at that time. Mauritania's first president, Mokhtar Ould Daddah, declared the country a one-party state and remained in power for 18 years with his Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM). He strove for the integration of all Mauritanian communities and for that reason banned a number of political parties that represented Moorish or negro-African interests too emphatically. The PPM remained the only political party until 1978. In 1978, a non-violent military coup brought an end to Ould Daddah's rule. The reason for this coup was the hopeless situation in which the country had ended up due to the conflict over the Western Sahara. Mauritania became involved in this conflict in 1975 when Spain withdrew from Western Sahara and the territory was divided between Morocco and Mauritania. The struggle against the Western Sahara's Polisario liberation movement had a major negative economic and social impact on Mauritania. On the eve of the 1978 coup, the country was on the brink of financial collapse and civil war threatened. The new government very quickly negotiated a ceasefire with Polisario and, in 1979, withdrew completely from the Western Sahara conflict. In the following period, Mauritania had a series of military leaders (Moustapha Ould Salek, Ould Bouseif and Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah). An important political decision in 1980 was the abolition of slavery.

Period Taya

In December 1984, Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid' Ahmed Taya took power in a coup d'état and was President of Mauritania for 20 years. Until 1991, Mauritania was ruled with a strict hand. Opposition parties were hardly allowed and human rights were regularly violated. From 1991, a start was made with democratisation and political prisoners were released. This led to the first free presidential and parliamentary elections in 1992, in which Taya (of the Parti Republicain Democratique et Social (PRDS)) was elected with approximately 60% of the votes. The PRDS has remained the largest party. The President regularly carried out cabinet reshuffles (most recently in March 2005), maintaining at all times a fragile balance between different populations, regions, tribes and important families. The relatively numerous political parties are largely organised around charismatic leaders and only in a few cases around specific themes or ideologies. The Mauritanian constitution and corresponding organic law explicitly prohibit political parties that run counter to the principles of Islam or incite intolerance, violence, disruption of public order and national unity and territorial integrity.

21th century

Although the PRDS retained a large majority in parliament in the 2001 parliamentary and local elections, the opposition was more strongly represented than before. The government therefore decided to ban the main opposition party. Its members were able to keep their seats in parliament.

The presidential elections of November 2003 were also won by Taya. On 3 August 2005, a coup brought an end to the rule of Taya, who was absent on the occasion of the funeral of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. The new rulers call themselves the "Counseil Militaire pour la Justice et la Democratie" (CMJD).

In March 2007, former minister Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi won the presidential election. With 53% of the votes, he defeated former opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah in the second round of voting. This was the first time in Mauritania's history that the change of power was made democratically. Observers judged the voting process to be free, fair and transparent.

In 2007, Mauritania's parliament passed a law criminalising slaveholding. Slave owners can now face up to ten years in prison.

Officially, slavery had been banned in the desert state since 1981, but many slave owners did not care. According to human rights groups, hundreds of thousands of slaves are still in Mauritania today.

In May 2008, members of the moderate Islamic opposition entered government for the first time. In August 2008, the army staged a coup and deposed President Abdallahi. In January 2009, the military promised elections, which actually took place in July 2009.

General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz won the presidential elections with 52% of the votes. In July 2010, Mauritania adopted a new anti-terrorism law. This gave the security forces greater powers to combat al-Qaeda. In February 2011, the Arab Spring also hit Mauritania and hundreds of people took to the streets. In January 2012, Mauritania received many refugees from Mali, due to the Tuareg rebellion in the north. President Abdelaziz's party wins the December 2013 parliamentary elections. In June 2014, President Abdelaziz is re-elected, the opposition boycotts the elections. In a referendum in August 2017, voters support the President's plans to abolish the Senate and change the flag. The opposition boycotts this referendum. In the 2019 elections, Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani won the presidential election. In 2020, he appointed Mohamed Ould Bilal as prime minister.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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