National Electoral Observation
Electoral observation in Mauritania did not really exist before 2006. Prior to that date, there was no international or national observation of elections – national electoral observation was neither allowed nor regulated. In the election cycle of 2006, 2007, and 2009, the conduct of electoral observation and voter education activities by Mauritanian civil society organizations was very weak and had little impact on the electoral process. Electoral observation was not authorized during the constitutional referendum held on June 25, 2006, and it was very limited in the legislative and municipal elections of 2006. In order to observe the 2007 presidential elections, four organizations received funding from the donors’ fund managed by UNDP (United Nations Development Program), or from UNDP itself. These four organizations were the National Observatory of Elections (ONE), an umbrella organization that accredited all national observers; the Initiative for the Promotion of Citizenship Education and Political Dialogue (IPCD); GERDDES and Cyber-forum which conducted their own observation activities and were not part of ONE’s team. With the exception of GERDDES, which had a team of four observers who followed the electoral campaign in Nouakchott, these organizations did not conduct any pre-electoral activities.
During the 2007 presidential election, ONE deployed 300 observers in the first round and 301 in the runoff. GERDDES deployed 60 observers in 4 Wilayas (regions) and 259 polling stations in the first round and 45 observers in 238 polling stations in the runoff. IPCD deployed 200 observers in six Wilayas during each of the two rounds of the election and observed a total of 1,005 polling stations. Cyber-forum deployed 224 observers in all the Wilayas of the country, observing 916 polling stations in the first round and 1,034 in the runoff.
The four associations issued press releases about their electoral observation activities during the days of election on March 11 and 25, 2007. They stressed that, despite the persistence of some irregularities, the ballot was free, transparent, and credible.
International electoral observation
The European Union deployed a mission of electoral observers, the European Observation Mission (MOE), which was the only long term observation mission. The following entities also had deployed international observers: The African Union (UA), the International Organization of French Speaking Countries; the Arab League; the Islamic Conference Organization Summit (OIC), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Many of these organizations issued joint releases. The deployment of these observers was limited in time and space. Their findings were that the elections were free, transparent, and credible, and their findings were not contradicted. International observers did not monitor the 2009 elections, and national observation was also very limited for these elections.
The Observatory of National Elections (ONE)
During the 2006 and 2007 elections, ONE’s mandate was defined in an agreement signed by the organization and the Ministry of Interior on October 26, 2006. This agreement granted to ONE the sole authority to organize national electoral observation and the power to accredit national observers. ONE, in turn, had to submit its declaration and final report to the Ministry of Interior, which provides the administration with the ability to significantly influence and control ONE’s activities. Such monopoly and control is rather unusual in electoral observation conducted by civil society organizations, as it can undermine the independence required to conduct such missions. Accordingly, several civil society organizations questioned ONE’s independence and distanced themselves from the initiative. ONE was a temporary entity and was not reenacted for the 2009 presidential elections and consequently national observation of the elections was very limited.
Useful links and documentary resources
- Arrêté du premier ministre du 10 Octobre 2006 portant institution d’une Cellule interministériel de liaison et communication électorales.
- Arrêté n° 2816 du 14 novembre 2006 portant cadre juridique de l’observation électorale et annexe.
- The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, Election Observation Portal: Mauritania: http://aceproject.org/electoral-advice/dop?country=Mauritania&organization=&year=&election=&mission=&report=&keywords=