Leading opposition candidates in Mauritania presidential pollThu, 27 Jun 2024 17:24:53 GMT

Seven candidates are running in Mauritania’s presidential election Saturday, with incumbent Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani the favourite to win a second term at the head of the vast West African nation.Human rights activist, Biram Dah Abeid, and leader of the Islamist Tewassoul party, Hamadi Ould Sid’ El Moctar, are the two main opposition figures.Here is what we know.- Biram Dah Abeid: Third chance -The desk of Biram Dah Abeid is watched over by the statue of a lion, an animal with which the 59-year-old activist identifies.The campaigner against modern slavery came second in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, but says he believes in victory this time.Mauritanians must “elect a lion who will bring order and teach state officials to respect public funds”, he told AFP.”I’ve never held an official position. I have only had my vision of Mauritania (for) social justice, the rule of law, good economic health and development”, he said.Abeid, who has spent several months in prison, describes himself as “anti-establishment” and the only genuine opposition candidate.The campaigner has been arrested, convicted and imprisoned many times, mainly for his work against the persistence of slavery as president of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) since 2008.Abeid said that under current President Ghazouani, “mismanagement multiplied. Poverty increased tenfold. Immigration has increased. Insecurity has increased”.If elected, he will prioritise “an end to discrimination, an end to corruption, an end to mismanagement” and has pledged funds for agriculture, as well as free healthcare for Mauritanians, and justice reform.- Hamadi Ould Sid’ El Moctar: Islamist candidate –The charismatic Hamadi Ould Sid’ El Moctar, 49, hopes to bring the Islamist Tewassoul party to power.Tewassoul was legalised in 2007 and has become the leading opposition party in parliament with 11 out of 176 MPs.This is the first time since 2009 that the party has taken part in a presidential election.”There is an urgent need to bring about change in a country where a sham democracy reigns, where despite its fabulous wealth, the country remains at the bottom of the ladder of standard development indicators, and where everything must be done to avoid a social implosion,” the Tewassoul candidate told AFP.He has pledged to strengthen respect for the values of Islam and Islamic law in the deeply conservative society.”The fight against mismanagement and corruption is the top priority”, he said, adding he would support the most vulnerable and reform the education and health systems.