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From the Coup to the Elections - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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He has spent a year in the palace yet he has failed to find an excuse to justify the way he seized power in Mauritania last August. He took over the palace and the presidential offices, and gave his comrades leading state positions, but he has failed to be a president.

Despite that General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz tried to use all the propaganda he could, his intellectual abilities could not help him justify removing the legitimate president from power in his speeches to the people of Mauritania. In the beginning, he believed that the president of the republic is like a brigadier; he is obeyed as soon as he gives an order. However, he was confronted with a set of obstacles. The Mauritanians are not sheep, and Mauritania depends primarily on foreign aid and transactions, and its social balance is based on tribal relations. He has no sense of management and cannot even convince the people of his legitimacy.

The greatest obstacle that he faced is that major countries refused to deal with him unless the government is legitimate. He tried to gain parliamentary endorsement and a written resignation from the ousted president – the only elected president in the history of Mauritania – but did not succeed. Finally he decided to act like other illegitimate presidents by rigging the elections and declaring himself the president.

This is why he won the recent elections, and observers realized that he would have failed to secure even 10 percent of his citizens’ votes and that the elections were predetermined. In brief, it is difficult for any citizen to vote for someone who seized power in broad daylight unlawfully, whether or not he wears the mask of democracy.

Most importantly, legitimacy is not only about elections and democracy; it is also related to the credibility of the man and of his government and that people are accepting of him. This is what made someone like Hashemi Rafsanjani come out and address the people last Friday saying that the Iranian regime is confronting its biggest threat yet, that is the lack of trust in it.

General Ould Abdel Aziz may be successful at remaining in the palace in Nouakchott, which he was originally supposed to protect; however, he will not get a wink of sleep in that place because other Generals will find more legitimate reasons to oust him soon.

In my opinion, General Abdel Aziz would rather stay in his ruling position by force than call for re-elections and be accused of vote-rigging. If he remained a General in military uniform, people may then have accepted the idea of waiting for and dealing with a coup and a revolutionary leader. However, to claim that he is an elected leader by the people’s vote is a real miscalculation. Elections have not given him legitimacy and will not provide him with the foreign ties and international legitimacy that he wants. I do not think that he has any of the appropriate characteristics of a ruler or that he would accept working with the opposition that he removed from power.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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