Mauritania heads to the polls on 23rd November 2013 to vote in legislative elections. According to the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), 439 people are vying for the 147 seats in parliament. [1]

The last parliamentary elections were held in 2006 and these are the first elections since the 2008 military coup which resulted in Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz being elected as president in 2009.[2]

These elections have been postponed several times and as they take place, most of the opposition has shunned them calling them a farce. Only one opposition party, Tewassoul, which is said to be associated with Mauritania’s Muslim Brotherhood, is actually going ahead and participating in these elections alongside the government. [3] This boycott shows the problems that lie ahead for a democratic transition in Mauritania.

Women’s Political Participation.

Mauritania has a Bicameral Parliament. Members of parliament are elected every five years. The electoral law provides for a mixed voting system whereby the candidate lists for two-member constituents must have atleast both a male and female candidate, the three-member constituencies must include a female candidate and the larger constituencies should have both male and female candidates alternately. [4]This ensures that under the law, women can contest for parliamentary seats and constituencies are obliged to field female candidates.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, women occupy 21 of the 91 seats (22.11%) in the National Assembly from the 2006 elections.[5] In the senate the number is even lower. Women occupy only 8 of the 56 seats in the senate at (14.29%).[6]

Recent events in Mauritania however, have expressed the milestones that women face in seeking political office. A senior presidential advisor, Aslamo Ould Sidi al-Mustafa recently issued a fatwa banning women from contesting for the presidential election, and that they can only do so “just for fun”.[7] One of Mauritania’s prominent women’s organizations, the Association of Female Heads of Families in condemning this fatwa as violating not only women’s rights but also the Laws of Mauritania, stated that, “ the fatwa is also very contradictory for it gives women the right to run, but not the right to win.”[8]

Women’s Political Representation Statistics

Women Political Representation

As of 2006

As of 2009

As of 2013

Female Members of parliament (National Assembly)

21/95 (22.11%)[9]



Female members of Senate


8/56 (14.29%)[10]




As Mauritania seeks a path to democracy after the 2008 military coup, and with the opposition boycotting these elections, it remains to be seen how things will progress from here. Women are still under represented with regards to political participation and hopefully this will change.

[4] Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU PARLINE database: Mauritania National Assembly, Electoral System,

[5] Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU PARLINE database: Mauritania National Assembly,

[6] Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU PARLINE database: Mauritania Senate,

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