Pre-election projections in Mauritania: Daddah, Aziz and Boulkheir on top

A poll done by the National Gendarmerie within the last 24-48 hours, projects the electoral map (though not Inichiri). Here is the list by region, with its voter population, based generally on data from 2007:

  • Hodh al-Sharqi: (1) Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz; (2) Ahmed Ould Daddah; (3) Messaoud Boulkheir. Projected to be close. (South-east interior; +/- 70,000)
  • Hodh al-Gharbi: (1/2) Close competition between Ould Daddah and Ould Abdel Aziz; (3) Hamadi Ould Saleh Ould Hannena and Boulkheir in close competition; (4/5) Ely Ould Mohamed Vall and Jamil Mansour. (South-west interior; +/- 61,200)
  • Assaba: (1) Ould Daddah; (2) Ould Abdel Aziz; (3) tough competition between Boulkheir and Mansour. (South central interior; +/- 60,500)
  • Brakna: (1) Ould Daddah; (2) Ould Abdel Aziz closely behind; (3) Boulkheir showing strongly. (Western south-central interior; +/- 72,789)
  • Trarza: (1) Ould Daddah; (2) Ould Abdel Aziz is the closest challenger; “average” showing by other candidates. (South-western coastal; +/- 100,000)
  • Ghorghoul: (1/2) Boulkheir and Ould Abdel Aziz in tight competition; (3/4) close race between Sarr Ibrahima Mokhtar Sarr and Ould Daddah. Projected to be close. (South-central interior; +/- 47,000 )
  • Guidimagha: Ould Abdel Aziz. (Far south central interior; +/- 29,007)
  • Tagant: (1/2) Boulkheir or Ould Abdel Aziz; (3) Ould Daddah. (Central interior; +/- 24,000)
  • Adrar: (1) Ould Daddah; (2) Boulkheir; (3) Ould Abdel Aziz. (Central interior; +/- 22,000)
  • Tiris al-Zemmour: (1) Ould Daddah; (2) Boulkheir; third place is not mentioned. (North-east interior; +/- 14,000)
  • Nouadhibou: (1) Boulkheir; (2) Ould Daddah; (3) Ould Abdel Aziz and Vall in close competition. (Northwest coastal; +/- 31,200)
  • Nouakchott: (1) Ould Daddah; (2) Boulkheir; (3) Ould Abdel Aziz; (4/5/6, etc.) toss up between various others, Vall, Sarr, Mansour, etc. (South-central coastal, surrounded by Trarza; +/- 180,000)

An uphill struggle for the General, but still close

The results of the Gendarmerie’s poll would indicate that Ould Daddah will have a strong first round showing. Ould Daddah takes six (perhaps five, if he does not take Hodh al-Gharbi) regions, including Nouakchott. Ould Abdel Aziz takes at most four (assuming he beats Boulkheir in Ghorghol and Tagant and Ould Daddah in Hodh al-Gharbi), at least two (Guidimagha and Hodh al-Sharqi). Boulkheir takes three (assuming he defeats Ould Abdel Aziz in Ghorghol and Tagant). None of the other candidates break third place in any region, not even Vall.

In case of fraud, defection

Some regions, numerically, are with more than others. Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, both of the Hodhs and the other southern regions have the largest populations. Ould Daddah lost in 2007 largely because he could not carry the southern hinterlands; he took Nouakchott and much of the north but lost the interior and Nouadhibou in the second round. Ould Abdel Aziz has a strong projection in the Hodhs (which are critical for victory) but does poorly in the other areas of high population concentration. He is contested strongly in all the areas where he ranks in the top two, save Guidimagha. He cannot guarantee a first round victory. If he does, it will be contested on grounds of fraud by both Ould Daddah and Boulkheir. The stakes remain as high as ever. Vall is already complaining of fraud. This should not be taken lightly: Vall ran Mauritania’s internal security network for two decades, and certainly knows fraud when he sees it.  If, or when, the second round comes Ould Abdel Aziz will be it will be close. Defections from one camp within the opposition to another are possible, especially in the case of Sarr and perhaps even Mansour. Fraud is the not the only force fighting the opposition. Barring such defections, the prospect of which remains very real according to some in the country, a united opposition should trounce Ould Abdel Aziz. Such hop overs decided the 2007 election and could do the same in 2009. If there are not major defections, as was said here before, expect commotion. Even in such a case, expect expressions of very real dissatisfaction on the street and elsewhere. Boulkheir is warning of “civil war” in the event of fraudulent results.

Questions of legitimacy, character

Ould Abdel Aziz’s poor projections indicate that the political class fears the aggressive political culture his personal history and campaign style reflects. He has the backing of his own tribe, the Ould Bou S’ba’a (which is also Vall’s tribe). By accounts of Ould Bou S’ba’a leaders, he has the backing of all its clans, save for “but ten men”. His main edge over the opposition in the Nouakchott district is that his tribe owns the rental car and busing systems: but even that will not win him the capital. He has been unable to convince the country of his legitimacy or that electing him after his sampler year would be in anyone’s long term benefit. The criticism of Ould Daddah, clearly his closest competitor (as has been written on this blog before, though many other outsider analysts have projected Vall or Boulkheir), is that he has been obsessed with the presidency for the last three decades. His commitment to democracy as a means of social organization have rarely been questioned: when he back the coup last summer, this occurred for the first time. It is no longer a subject of conversation, though.

Ould Abdel Aziz is widely seen as a despot, a Banana Republican whose sole ambition is to rule for the sake of ruling. Curiously enough, Ould Abdel Aziz’s eligibility is questionable, given that he was born in Senegal: candidates must be natural-born Mauritanians. His campaign has faltered in terms of organization and popular support. The opposition has mounted hugely effective grass roots campaigns, better organized and better marketed than in any previous election in the country. To what lengths Ould Abdel Aziz will go to continue at the country’s head will be seen. So will Mauritanians’ desire to break with a history of coup-born leadership.

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