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African Leaders Call for Mauritania Election Transparency

Several African heads of state who held for a regional meeting in Libya over the weekend have called for transparency in Mauritania's upcoming election despite opposition protests.

The African leaders urged opposition political parties as well as the leader of last year's coup d'état to ensure that this week's general election is free and fair.

With Senegal acting as mediator, the opposition demanded the election be postponed, claiming it is a sham aimed at legitimizing the recent coup. 

The Director of Governance at United Nations Economic Commission For Africa, Professor Okey Onyejekwe told VOA that recent elections across Africa have been flashpoints of chaos.

"I'm glad that the heads of state are insisting on a transparent and a credible election," Onyejekwe he said.

He said there are indications that the calls by the African heads of state might not be heeded by the political players in Mauritania.

"My fear is that maybe their intervention has come rather late in the process, given the fact that it is not just what happens on the day of the elections that determines the credibility of the election. It is also the antecedents such as ensuring that there is a level playing field," he said.

Onyejekwe said there are suspicions that the leader of the coup would ensure he wins the election despite opposition protests and efforts.

"There are quite a number of people who basically think likewise because the point here is that the incumbent is also the one who staged the coup d'état," Onyejekwe said.

He said the opponents in the elections are expressing worry that the playing field is not level ahead of the election.

"It looks from the point of view of the opposition that the outcome is already predictable," Onyejekwe said.

He said the leader of the military junta should have refused to participate in the election on principle.

"My judgment would have been a preferable alternative for the leader of the coup to just stand and just observe the elections and make sure that the process of transition to a new civilian regime was credible and legitimate," he said.

Onyejekwe said the opposition's fortunes would be largely influenced by ongoing discussions mediated by Senegal and by the just-ended meeting in Libya.

"Right now it depends on what was agreed at the meeting of heads of state in terms of the commitments that were made by the incumbent. And from what we've observed so far, it is usually going to be quite difficult given the fact that the incumbent is someone who has the reins of power," he said.

Onyejekwe described recent elections held in some African countries as challenging.

"The problem of elections these days in Africa is that there is a difficulty in accepting the outcome of this election, and elections are becoming flashpoints for conflicts," Onyejekwe said.

He said there is need to address the difficulties associated with elections across Africa.

"We need to deal with some of the fundamental problems why elections have now become flashpoints for conflict. And which means that it is important that the process from the beginning to the end is inclusive, participatory enough and not skewed against one or the other," he said.

Onyejekwe said the opposition parties have not been overly enthused about the decisions of the African Union concerning the upcoming election.

"There is an argument which I think members of the opposition have been advancing recently, which is the fact that the AU no longer accepts non-constitutional ascension to power," Onyejekwe said.

He said there are worries the African Union, which abhors the overthrow of constitutionally elected governments, is not fully implementing its role.

"Now it is now part of the charter that coup makers will not be accepted, but here now they (opposition) are asking the question if that is the case, if it is becoming the norm in Africa, why then will someone who staged a coup be the same person standing for elections? It raises some questions in terms of whether there is a contradiction," he said.

Meanwhile, there are negotiations are taking place in the Senegalese capital Dakar between all the political parties participating in this week's election.

The African Union suspended Mauritania from the continental body and the Economic Community of West African States as part of international sanctions to force a return of the constitutional order.

The African Union backed Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to be the facilitator. But the Senegalese leader is also being backed by the International Contact Group on Mauritania, which consists of the AU, the Arab League, the European Union, the International Organization of the Francophonie, and the United Nations. 

Senegalese mediators reportedly have been working hard to find a solution to Mauritania's political stalemate ahead of the vote. Initial reports of an agreement were sharply denied by Senegalese authorities.

Mauritania's military junta announced the June 6 election and the formation of an electoral commission in January, in search of an end to the crisis. Coup leader Abdel Aziz resigned on April 15 from ruling High Council of State to run for the presidency.

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