- The democratic parties opposing Mauritania's coupist government have gained a milestone victory in the Dakar negotiations about a return to democracy. The presidential elections are to be postponed to 18 July, with the democratic parties participating, and a unity government will now be formed.
Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio today announced that a compromise had been reached in the difficult negotiations about the democratic transition of neighbouring Mauritania. Coup general Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, who seized power last year, agreed to postpone elections slated for 6 June to be held 18 July.
The democratic opposition, spearheaded by the country's democratically elected but ousted President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, had threatened to boycott the elections, claiming they were only being organised to legitimise the power of general Ould Abdelaziz.
The general, who took power in an August 2008 coup, was nominated by his military junta to contest the polls. Earlier this year, the general stepped down to run for president in the presidential polls.
To assure a free and fair election, the Dakar compromise also foresees the immediate formation of a transitional unity government that will lead Mauritania through the electoral process. The unity government will include ministers appointed by the democratic opposition, according to Senegalese Minister Gadio.
The Dakar negotiations included three parties, the ruling military junta; the National Front in Defence of Democracy supporting ousted President Cheikh Abdallahi; and the Grouping of Democratic Forces, which formed the parliamentary opposition to the ousted government. All three parties will participate in the unity government and in the upcoming elections.
The Dakar compromise also paves way for the establishment of a new Independent National Electoral Commission, the adoption of a political amnesty law and an end to the persecution of oppositional forces in Mauritania. It also foresees the return of press freedom and equal access to the media during the electoral campaigns.
As a first step, to demonstrate that the junta respected the Dakar agreement, general Ould Abdelaziz this afternoon announced the temporal suspension of his electoral campaign in Mauritania.
In Mauritania, the negotiation results were celebrated as a total victory for the country's democratic forces and optimism was great for a democratic return to the constitutional order. All parties were confident free and fair elections could now be held and that human and democratic rights again would be granted Mauritanians.
Also internationally, the Dakar results were hailed today. The talks, hosted by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, had been co-sponsored by the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union; three major institutions that have demanded the return to constitutional order in Mauritania. All three bodies indicated their willingness to assist Mauritania with the organisation of the upcoming polls.
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