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Civilian Politicians Oppose Elections by Mauritanian Military

Political opponents of Mauritania's military government say they will demonstrate against plans for new elections in June. The military says it will not allow unauthorized protests.

Now that he has declared his candidacy to run for president in elections he has scheduled for June, military ruler General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is appealing to voters to take part in a ballot his political opponents are boycotting.

General Aziz says he his committed to organizing free and fair elections June 6. He says he will resign his military commission within the next few weeks and, in keeping with the constitution, allow the president of the Senate to run the country until the election. This he says will both prevent a power vacuum and respect the rule of law.

General Aziz came to power last August in a coup that toppled Mauritania's first freely-elected leader, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. General Aziz has ignored African Union demands to reinstate President Abdallahi, saying that would not serve the greater interests of the Mauritanian people.

Instead, he says allowing retired soldiers to run in the June elections better reflects what he calls Mauritania's "new political and cultural reality."

President Abdallahi says he will not take part in that vote and is urging his supporters to boycott the ballot. The U.S.-based National Democratic Institute will not monitor the vote because it says the ballot is a unilateral decision and unconstitutional.

The vice president of the opposition Assembly of Democratic Forces says pro-democracy advocates will protest the military's plans for elections by organizing demonstrations in the capital, Nouakchott.

Mohamed Mahmoude Ould Lematte says there must first be an independent electoral commission in Mauritania. He is not opposed to the military taking part in the vote but says there should be a national union government instead of a one-sided election that validates those responsible for the coup.

Unless military rulers agree to those changes, the coalition of Mauritanian opposition parties plans a series of demonstrations against the vote.

The governor of Nouakchott says those protests are unauthorized and will not be allowed to disrupt campaigning. The military banned public demonstrations shortly after the coup but has since allowed several opposition rallies, including a protest at a stadium in the capital this week where the president of the Assembly of Democratic Forces, Ould Dadah described June's vote as "a violation of power and a degradation of democracy."