Nouakchott — Mauritania's presidential election campaign began on Friday (June 6th). Five candidates are running in the June 21st poll, including President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
The sitting president will face off against Lalla Mariem Mint Moulaye Idriss, opposition party leaders Boidiel Ould Houmeid and Ibrahima Moctar Sarr, and anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid.
Ould Abdel Aziz launched his campaign for re-election in the southern city of Kaedi, telling supporters that under his leadership, the country had made "great strides" in security and economic growth.
Ould Abdel Aziz said he had transformed the country into a regional haven of peace, thanks to his reorganisation of the military and security forces.
He has claimed credit for a burgeoning mining sector and a drop in the inflation rate to less than five per cent, AFP reported.
But most opposition parties are boycotting the upcoming poll, citing a lack of legal and procedural requirements to guarantee transparency. They have started mobilising their supporters to abstain from the vote.
The National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU) demonstrated in the capital Nouakchott last Wednesday against the way the election was being organised. The coalition combines the Islamist National Rally for Reform and Development (Tawassoul) and the parties of the Co-ordination of Democratic Opposition, which plan to repeat their boycott of parliamentary and local elections last year.
Ould Abdel Aziz criticised the boycott by what he called the "radical" opposition, accusing its members of "bringing the country to its knees".
Meanwhile, to instil voter confidence in the legitimacy of the ballot, the independent electoral commission called on authorities to be completely neutral towards all candidates and guarantee security, so the poll could take place in the best possible circumstances.
It also promised to guarantee the objectivity and accuracy of election coverage by the media.
Despite the guarantees by the commission, some Mauritanians see the election as little more than consolidation of the political pole already in power.
Other citizens support the poll, arguing that it will open new horizons for Mauritanians through the current regime's continuation of a host of reforms.
"This election will definitely increase youths' problems because it has excluded all opposition forces," Salihy Ould Abo, a young activist, told Magharebia. "Therefore, I'm boycotting it."
"I personally don't expect that any change will take place, whether in administration mechanisms or economic reforms, because the rule of military junta hasn't realised anything positive for Mauritania since they took over power more than 30 years ago," independent journalist Charif Ould Hamdi said.
Abdallah Ould Hormatallah, a young activist with the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR), had a completely different view. He criticised the opposition's rejection of the democratic process, calling it unpatriotic.
Mauritanian Communications Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Mohamed, the sitting president's campaign co-ordinator, remains confident.
"The change plan will win against the rival candidates," the minister said Saturday.