Mauritania’s leading presidential candidates hope they have convinced voters to pick the right successor President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is stepping down after being in power for a decade.
Among the six candidates is former General Mohamed Ould Ghazouani who was a longtime ally of Abdel Aziz.
Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar is the main challenger of Ould Ghazouani hopes to win enough support to secure a runoff vote on July 6.
He is backed by a coalition that is led by the opposition party, Islamist party Tewassoul, and by Franco-Mauritanian businessman Mohamed Ould Bouamatou.
A research conducted by by the Mauritanian Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (CMERS) showed that 30 percent voters said they would vote for Ould Ghazaouani and 23 percent would vote for Ould Boubacar. This research was among 1300 people.
According to the polls, there are four other candidates in the Muslim nation that are in the race.
Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, an anti-slavery activist took 9.5 percent while veteran opposition figure Mohamed Ould Moloud had 3.7 percent, journalist Baba Hamidou Kane got 2.6 percent and newcomer Mohamed Lemine El-Mourteji El-Wavi took 2.1 percent.
The candidates have been around Sahel nation which is twice the size of France with a population of 4.5 million. In these territories politicians made sure that they court heads of tribes and clans.
Heads of tribes and clans are considered as “grand electors” who can mobilise communities to back a candidate in poor areas as well as the towns. The six candidates are expected to wrap up their campaigns on Thursday.
Rivals have promised improvements in the standard of living, though economic growth at 3.6 percent in 2018 is insufficient to meet the needs of a fast-growing population, according to the World Bank.
The ruling party, Union for the Republic (UPR) has promised “to leave nobody by the side of the road”, argues that the crowds at its rallies already “constitute a plebiscite”.
Followers of Ould Ghazouani in Nouakchott pitched their tent near supporters of Ould Boubacar. Salka Mint Cheikh said that activists from neighboring tents: “don’t hold back from coming to our evening dances”.
“We would doubtless do the same if they organised one of their own.”
Nagi Ould Ahmed, a young supporter of UPR said that nocturnal festivities are: “great opportunities for shared pleasures, which have been special to us for a long time now.”
The opposition has warned of the potiential “hold-up” in the election and also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) of being “totally won over to the candidate of the regime”.
Authorities rejected the opposition request. The CENI chairman said that: “everything will absolutely be ready (for a vote) where transparency will be ensured, even in the absence of observers”.
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.