Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has said he will not seek a third term in office, amid opposition allegations that he planned to change the constitution to extend his rule.
A Western ally in the fight against al Qaeda-linked Islamists in the Sahara, Abdel Aziz first came to power in a coup in 2008 and won a second five-year term in 2014. He is barred by the constitution from running again.
“I am neither ashamed nor afraid of asking to change the constitution for my personal interest. But I don’t think this would be in the interest of the country,” he said.
I am neither ashamed nor afraid of asking to change the constitution for my personal interest. But I don't think this would be in the interest of the country.
He cited his leadership of two coups, the first in 2005, as evidence that he would not shy away from changing the constitution if he wanted.
“I have already annulled the constitution multiple times by coup d’etats,” he said.
Scrapping term limits would enable Abdel Aziz to tread a path well worn by leaders of more than a dozen other African countries including in Uganda, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and more recently Rwanda and Congo Republic.
Mauritania has never had a peaceful transition of power from one elected president to another, and senior officials including the justice minister have raised concern by speaking in favour of lifting terms limits.
A major opposition party in the country, the People’s Progressive Alliance dropped out of the national dialogue last week to protest at remarks by a government spokesman which suggested that the question of a third term would be raised.