NOUAKCHOTT— Mauritania will hold presidential elections on June 21, according to the presidency,
despite a lack of agreement on the reform of election rules that some opposition leaders argue will likely ensure the return to power of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
Abdel Aziz is yet to say so, but some observers say he will likely run. He came to power in an army coup in 2008, won an election the next year and is a Western ally against al Qaeda in the impoverished and unstable Sahel region of West Africa.
A statement from the presidency said potential candidates had until May 8 to declare their intention to stand.
So far, anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Abeid is the only one to do so.
The statement came after weeks of talks between the ruling party and opposition parties failed to reach agreement on the election's date and rules.
Opposition parties say the electoral commission, which will oversee the poll, favours the president as it is currently constituted because its members are close to him.
Moussa Fall, executive director of the opposition Forum for Democracy and Unity, denounced the communique and said by naming an election date the ruling majority was effectively unilaterally suspending those talks.
"There are still no clear guarantees on the ground rules and transparency of the elections. Even so, we reiterate our willingness to resume talks," Fall told Reuters on Monday.
Ten opposition parties, including the main Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD) party led by Ahmed Ould Daddah, boycotted legislative elections in December and accused the government of rigging the poll which was won by the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR).