The Party System and Conditions of Candidacy
The modified ordinance 91-024, passed on July 25, 1991, regulates political parties in Mauritania. Political parties are defined as associations of citizens pursuing common ideals and political objectives and participating in the political life of the country. For a political party to be legally established, it must file a declaration at the Ministry of Interior. The declaration consists of presenting to authorities a number of required documents (Article 8), after which the Ministry issues to the political party a certificate of declaration.
The certificate of declaration serves as tangible evidence that the creation of a political party was declared to relevant authorities for authorization by the State. After the issuance of the certificate of declaration, the Ministry of Interior has 60 days to conduct necessary studies, investigations, and requests, to verify that the content of the declaration is true. After this verification of compliance, the Ministry publishes the certificate of declaration in the government’s official registrar. The published certificate includes information about the headquarters of the party and its founders, including their names, dates of birth, addresses, professions, and positions in the party. This publication must be made within 60 days.
Therefore, it can be concluded that a political party is authorized after the government’s publication of the certificate of declaration. The issuance of a certificate of declaration upon initial filing is done for the sole purpose of allowing the party to temporarily conduct its activities during the 60 day period allocated to the Ministry of Interior to determine whether or not the party will receive a final authorization.
What happens when the Ministry does not issue a certificate of declaration to a party? The Ministry of Interior and political parties have opposite interpretations with respect to this situation. After the 60 day deadline political parties view the Ministry’s silence as tacit authorization and they assume consequently, that the party becomes a legal entity (by virtue of their declaration). As for the Ministry of Interior, the lack of explicit response equates to a denial by virtue of the discretionary powers of public administration authorities or in other words, denial by virtue of the ministry’s lack of authorization. The Ministry of Interior has refused to issue some political parties a certificate of declaration for an extended period of time.
Various reasons for their refusal include: (1) that the party in question was a threat to national unity; (2) that it was an Islamist party; or (3) that there were too many parties and the issuance of certificates of declaration had been suspended as a result.
There are two main advantages to being a political party rather than an independent movement: first, the possibility of benefiting from state funding allocated to political parties (see revised Article 20 and Article 4 of Ordinance 2006-030 modifying and completing Law 2001-030 of February 7, 2001, which regulates the funding of political parties). Secondly, political party status allows candidacies to run for election to the National Assembly on national lists (see Article 3, paragraph 3 of Ordinance 2006-33 modifying and completing Ordinance 91-028 of October 7, 1991, which regulates the election of members or the National Assembly).
The new provisions passed in 2012 (enforceable for the coming elections) mandate that only political parties can nominate candidates for the legislative and local elections (revised Article 22 of the organic Law 2012-029 of April 12, 2012; Article 113 of the organic Law 2012-032 of April 12, 2012, and Article 9 of the new organic Law 2012-030 of April 11, 2012).
Each candidate to legislative or local elections must pay a deposit of 20,000 Ouguiyas or 50 Euros to the state treasury. This deposit is reimbursed to candidates or lists of candidates that obtain more than 5% of votes.
The provisions of Law 2012-024 regulating the funding of political parties are very strict. Article 20 of this law states, “…Any political party that nominates candidates in two general municipal elections and obtains less than 1% of ballots cast, in each of the two elections, or abstains from participating in two consecutive general municipal elections, shall be automatically dissolved. The Minister of Interior shall register the dissolution by decree as a consequence of the final results of the municipal elections…”
The political party system has undergone several changes since 1990 due to the creation of some new parties, the dissolution of others, and the formation of numerous party coalitions. Mauritania now experiences political pluralism. More than 45 political parties have been authorized and half of them have taken part in the 2006 and 2007 elections. However, many parties are not very strong in reality. Political life in the country is organized around strong personalities, rather than political parties. As a result, political parties in general are structurally weak: they have fairly rudimentary platforms and ideologies, weak internal organization, very little planning of activities, and few strategies to guide action.
The procedure for filing candidacies in the 2006 and 2007 elections gives an impression of the representativeness and dynamism of legal political parties at the national level. Only 8 parties managed to have more than one candidate elected at the National Assembly, which has a total of 95 members. Furthermore, the Islamist movement—which is not authorized as a political party—has managed to obtain 5 seats in the National Assembly. Based on the results of the election, the 8 parties rank as follows:
- The Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD), 16 members at the National Assembly
- The Union of the Forces of Progress (UFP), 9 members at the National Assembly
- The Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal (PRDR), 7 members at the National Assembly
- The People’s Progressive Alliance (APP), 5 members at the National Assembly
- The Mauritanian Party for Unity and Change (PMUC/HATEM), 3 members at the National Assembly
- The Rally for Democracy and Unity (RDU), 3 members at the National Assembly
- The Union for Democracy and Progress (UDP), 3 members at the National Assembly
- Democratic Renewal (RD), 2 members at the National Assembly
- Independent group, 41 members at the National Assembly
The independent group of the Assembly became the political base of the new presidential party named UPR. Each party’s number of elected representatives in the Assembly has changed because of “political nomadism” of representatives. After these elections, new parties were born and have proven their stamina. This is the case for MPR, WIAM, EL MOUSTAQBAL (the future), TAWASSOUL (RNDR), and ADJ/MR.
The political debate on independent candidacies has resurfaced since 2012, though this time it is about their suppression (this debate is further discussed in the section on debates and controversies). The organic law regulating the election of members of the National Assembly and the Senate has considerably reduced the phenomenon of “political nomadism” by parliamentarians. This is particularly due to provisions of the law which state that a member of the National Assembly or Senate who resigns from his or her party, during his or her term, shall immediately lose his or her seat and shall be replaced as prescribed by the law.
Useful links and documentary resources
- Journal officiel de la République islamique de Mauritanie (This website provides access to the texts of laws according to their issuers) : http://www.mauritania.mr/legislation/index.php
- Ordonnance constitutionnelle n° 2005-005 du 29 septembre 2005 relative à l’inéligibilité du Président et des membres du CMJD, du premier ministre et des membres du gouvernement aux élections présidentielles et législatives prévues dans le cadre du processus de transition démocratique
- Official websites of the most representative political parties
This post is also available in: Français (French)