By Mohamed al-Bakay
Mauritania’s largest opposition coalition has accused President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of “defying democratic legitimacy" by putting proposed constitutional changes -- which were already rejected by the country’s senate -- before a popular referendum.
The National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU) made the assertion at a Friday press conference held by FNDU leaders in capital Nouakchott.
One day earlier, Ould Abdel Aziz announced plans to hold a referendum -- he did not specify a date -- on a raft of proposed constitutional changes.
The same draft constitutional amendments, however, were rejected by the Mauritanian Senate in a vote held last week.
In its Friday statement, the FNDU described the president’s decision as “a rebellion against [democratic] legitimacy and a fresh attempt to impose the will of one individual on the entire nation”.
Ould Abdel Aziz, for his part, has defended the move by citing Article 38 of the constitution, which grants the president of the republic the right to “consult the people via referendum on issues of national importance”.
If approved, the constitutional changes would abolish the country’s High Court of Justice; establish a system of regional administrative councils; adopt a system of proportional representation in national elections; change Mauritania’s national flag; and institute a unicameral -- rather than bicameral -- parliament.
Most Mauritanian opposition parties reject the proposed changes, which they believe would serve to cement the current government’s grip on power.