The Administration of Elections
In the wake of the “National Dialogue” in 2012, it was decided to create a permanent Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) which responsible for organizing elections. This move put an end to the role of the Ministry of Interior as the sole organizer of elections, as it had been in the previous system. Before analyzing the new system that will be enforced in upcoming elections, we will first examine how elections were previously administered.
The former system of electoral administration
The Ministry of Interior had the mandate to organize all aspects of the elections and fulfilled a pivotal role in the Mauritanian electoral process.
The Office of the Promotion of Democracy and Civil Society at the Ministry of Interior was responsible for the registration of voters, electoral operations, logistics, and the centralization of electoral results. This office was also responsible for the selecting polling stations members as well as their training and supervision. It was in charge of authorizing associations and political parties and monitoring their operations and funding. The Office of Data Processing and Statistics was in charge of electoral lists, including the technical aspects of electoral registration and the production of the lists themselves. The Ministry of Interior supervised and coordinated the civil servants in charge of the administration of elections in the Wilayas (regions) and the Moughataas (sub regions). The Ministry of Interior, moreover, had the mandate to proclaim provisional results while the Constitutional Court proclaimed the final results, and also took important measures such as posting the lists of voters, polling stations, electoral staff, and the results of the elections on the Internet.
In 2006, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) was added to serve as a temporary entity which would oversee and monitor (not organize) elections. At this time, the CENI had the power to issue injunctions, and if necessary, suspend administrative authorities who violate the laws and regulations governing elections.
The new administration of elections
The Law 2012-027 of April 12, 2012 created a new CENI, which is permanent and maintains headquarters in Nouakchott. This law gives jurisdiction and powers to the CENI to prepare, organize, and supervise all electoral operations, including the validation of electoral lists, the proclamation of provisional results, and their submission to the Constitutional Court for a final proclamation. These prerogatives are given to the CENI for presidential elections and referendums, though it also has the power to proclaim the results of other elections. The CENI will exercise these new prerogatives in all future elections (Articles 2 and 3).
The new CENI is a collective institution. It is directed by a managing committee of 7 members appointed by presidential decree. The managing committee members are appointed by the head of state after having been chosen by consensus from a list of 14 potential members. This list of potential members is composed of nominations made by political parties from the majority and the opposition, with each side submitting 7 nominations.
Members of the managing committee are appointed for a non-renewable five-year term. However, if their term expires after the scheduling of the date of elections, the term is automatically extended until the proclamation of the results of the election. The oldest member of the managing committee presides over the committee.
The CENI has the following responsibilities:
- Validate the master electoral lists
- Produce separate lists of voters based on the validated master electoral list
- Receive candidacies and issue a temporary and final certificate acknowledging receipt of candidacies after the vetting of the latter by its relevant entities. These powers do not apply to presidential candidates
- Issues pertaining to the choice by candidates of their colors, emblems, signs, and electoral logos
- Creation, production, and distribution of electoral cards
- Control of the electoral campaigns
- Storage of electoral equipment and supplies on its premises or premises under its responsibility, conveyance of the electoral equipment and supplies in due course and under its responsibility, to polling centers and polling stations
- Organize polling stations, in terms of membership, number of stations, training of members, location, and number of registered voters per polling station
- Organize electoral operations and vote counting as well as the drafting of electoral minutes from polling stations, and their delivery
- Centralize and proclaim provisional results and convey them to the Constitutional Court, both in presidential elections and referendums
- Centralize and proclaim the results of non-presidential elections
In cooperation with The General Office of Support to the Electoral Process of the Ministry of Interior and decentralization, the CENI controls the preparation, updating, and management of electoral lists, as well as electoral registrations, and it validates all these operations. The CENI facilitates the work of national and international electoral observers who are invited in consultation with the consular and diplomatic services of the State.
The CENI is fully independent in the discharging of its missions and cannot receive any instructions from any public or private authority or institution. Some argue that the CENI is only independent in appearance, considering that the General Office of Support of the Electoral Process, created within the Ministry of Interior, “has under its umbrella all administrative offices involved in the organization of elections” and “is responsible for the conception and conservation of electoral lists” (we will revisit this issue in the section on debates and controversies).
Useful links and documentary resources
- Journal officiel de la République islamique de Mauritanie (This website provides access to the texts of laws according to their issuers) : http://www.mauritania.mr/legislation/index.php
- Loi organique n°2012-027 portant institution de la Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) : http://ceni.mr/IMG/pdf/ceni.pdf
- Décret n°2012-117 portant les modalités de désignation des membres du comité directeur de la Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI): http://ceni.mr/IMG/pdf/comite_directeur_cenifr.pdf
- Ordonnance n° 2005-012 du 16 décembre 2005 portant institution de la CENI, In Journal officiel de la République islamique de Mauritanie, 15 novembre 2005: http://www.anac.mr/ANAC/JOf/2005/1106%20fr%20sc.pdf
- Arrêté conjoint n° 2166 MIPTMJ du 31 août portant désignation des membres des Commissions administratives pour les élections législatives et municipales.
- Arrêté conjoint n° 2277 MIPTMJ du 6 septembre 2006 portant désignation des membres de la Commission spéciale de validation des listes candidates pour le scrutin de la liste nationale.