Thou­sands take to streets to protest Mau­ri­ta­nia ref­er­en­dum


Sev­eral thou­sand Mau­ri­ta­ni­ans took to the streets Satur­day to protest a con­tro­ver­sial con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum due on Au­gust 5, ac­cord­ing to AFP jour­nal­ists at the demon­stra­tion or­ga­nized by an op­po­si­tion coali­tion. The “No” coali­tion is drawn from a broad po­lit­i­cal spec­trum in­clud­ing Is­lamists and an­ti­slav­ery ac­tivists in the con­ser­va­tive west African na­tion, all of whom op­pose mea­sures in­clud­ing abol­ish­ing the se­nate and chang­ing the na­tional flag.

Satur­day’s march was fol­lowed by a rally where speak­ers de­nounced Pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Ould Ab­del Aziz for what was termed a “coup d’etat against the con­sti­tu­tion.” Jemil Ould Man­sour, head of the Is­lamic Te­was­soul party spear­head­ing the move­ment against the vote, de­scribed the protest’s turnout as “giv­ing the re­sult in ad­vance,” call­ing it “a clear mes­sage to the regime to put an end to this use­less ven­ture.”

Sen­a­tors re­jected the abo­li­tion of their own cham­ber in March, ap­par­ently to the gov­ern­ment’s sur­prise as a ma­jor­ity are from the rul­ing party, prompt­ing Aziz to call the ref­er­en­dum. But the op­po­si­tion fears that de­spite Aziz’s claims to the con­trary he is lay­ing the ground­work for a third term in power, with his own prime min­is­ter say­ing re­cently he sup­ported the idea. The march was the first ac­tion by the new “ac­tive boy­cott” move­ment, which has vowed to op­pose the vote at ev­ery step. —AFP

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