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Opposition celebrates last-minute vote delay


Latest update : 2009-06-04

Mauritania's opposition parties are celebrating after obtaining a delay in presidential elections, now to take place in July. The country has been in political stalemate since a coup by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (pictured) in August 2008.

AFP - Mauritania's opposition parties celebrated Wednesday after obtaining a last-minute delay in presidential elections that will now take place in July with their participation.

The deal, agreed after marathon talks in Dakar with international mediators, was due to be officially signed by the West African country's main political protagonists on Wednesday but was deferred by a day, a diplomatic source said.

"The signing will take place tomorrow. There are a few details which need to be sorted out," the source added.

The signing ceremony will officially end 10 months of political stalemate following the military coup of August last year which toppled Mauritania's first democratically elected president.

After some initial confusion the man who led the coup, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who stepped down as junta leader to run in the presidential elections, announced that he would suspend his campaign.

"Candidate Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz... has confirmed that as of today (Wednesday) his campaign will be suspended in light of the compromise that has been found with the other parties. There will be a delay of the elections," spokesman Ba Adema Moussa said.

Despite the cautious language, the international mediators were optimistic that it would be signed by all Wednesday.

"The parties have initialed an agreement in Dakar. The international contact group for Mauritania (which includes representatives of the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union) is coming to Nouakchott for the signing ceremony," UN representative for West Africa Said Djinnit told AFP.

"There is no reason to think that the parties will not honour their obligations. There is no reason for doubt," he insisted.

French ambassador to Senegal Jean-Christophe Rufin, who attended the Dakar talks, also said he was "entirely confident that all conditions are in place for a signing."

The main negotiator for the anti-coup coalition, Mohamed Ould Moloud, said the country's opposition forces had to remain united, saying all the actors had to "take into account" the coalition's achievement in Dakar.

The deal provides for the vote to be delayed until July 18 and for a temporary national unity government to be installed by Saturday, the day the junta had planned to hold the poll.

Opposition parties had planned to boycott the presidential election, calling it a sham designed to legitimise the rule of Ould Abdel Aziz.

As part of the agreement, the opposition parties will hold half of the ministries in the unity government, including the key ones of information, finance and communication.

The agreement also stipulates that the prime minister will be selected by Ould Abdel Aziz after consultations with the opposition.

Ould Daddah, the head of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (RDF), hailed the deal as a "victory of reason over violence."

"This is the dawn of a new era for democracy and development in Mauritania."

France, the former colonial power, congratulated leaders of all sides for allowing the national interest to prevail and "demonstrating their willingness to ensure the rapid return of constitutional order," said a statement from the presidency.

Speaking in Dakar, the European Union's mediator, Gilles Hervio, said that the agreement would also "open the path to cooperation that has been suspended for too long."

The EU in April suspended its cooperation with Mauritania due to the coup, saying a resumption was contingent on a return to constitutional order.

Date created : 2009-06-04