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Mauritanians say ‘Yes’ to controversial constitutional changes

August 8, 2017 at 12:42 pm

The National Independent Elections Committee in Mauritania announced on Monday that 85.61 per cent of the electorate had voted “Yes” in a referendum on new constitutional changes, Anadolu has reported.

The Chairman of the Committee, Abdullah Ould Iswed Ahmed, said that Saturday’s referendum included a review of Article 8 of the 1991 Constitution alongside other changes. On a turnout of 53.75 per cent for Article 8 related to changing the national flag, he explained, 85.1 per cent voted in favour and 9.99 per cent were against.

The other changes, he pointed out, included the abolition of the Senate and the creation of development councils and a Supreme Fatwa and Complaints Council to replace the Supreme Islamic Council.

According to the Mauritanian opposition, the changes were sought by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Read: 40% of Mauritanians expect presidential elections to be ‘unfair’

Reporting from the capital Nouakchott, Al-Jazeera’s Rob Matheson said that the government believes that the Senate is too expensive to maintain and, in any case, it performs a similar role to the lower House of Parliament. “But the opposition says that the Senate provides the political brake on the power of the president and on how long he can stay in office,” he added. “Aziz has been in power from 2009. He is serving the second five-year term in office. The opposition is convinced that if these reforms do go through, that will open the door for him to stay until 2024 and possibly much longer.”