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Mauritanian ruler from the 1980s enters post-coup presidential race

Mauritanian ruler from the 1980s enters post-coup presidential race

A former Mauritanian leader who was ousted in a coup more than two decades ago said he will try to regain power in March elections.
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla announced his candidacy Wednesday night in front of a crowd of supporters at his home in the capital of Nouakchott.
With a history of dictators and coups, the former French colony has never seen presidential power change hands at the ballot box. In August 2005, the man who overthrew Haidalla was toppled by a military junta that now promises to steer Mauritania toward democracy.
Haidalla seized power in a 1979 coup then ruled the northwest African country as a military dictator from 1980 to 1984, when he was overthrown by Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Taya. Taya, now in exile in Qatar, went on to rule the predominantly Muslim nation for 21 years, during which he was said to hold onto power by jailing political opponents, soldiers and Islamic activists. The opposition either boycotted elections during his rule or claimed they were rigged.
In August 2005, a group led by Taya's longtime police chief took over the country in a bloodless coup and promised to bring democratic reforms. The action was at first condemned by the international community, but coup leader Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall has since introduced political reforms and loosened controls on free speech, encouraging outsiders and Mauritania's 3 million citizens.
Vall has promised that neither he nor any other member of the junta will run for president.
Haidalla, 66, tried to take power back in 2003 elections, and came in second to Taya with nearly 19 percent of the vote. Taya, who received 66 percent of the vote, jailed Haidalla for days afterward for allegedly planning a coup.
In announcing his candidacy, Haidalla said he was responding to a "call from my heart and from a large number of Mauritanians." He promised to work for good governance, decentralization, prosperity and social progress _ citing particularly the fight against slavery and poverty.
Including Haidalla, 16 people have said they will enter the upcoming presidential race. Among them are journalists, members of longtime opposition parties and former ministers from Taya's government.
Taya's former communications head, 49-year-old Brahim Ould Abdallahi, also announced his candidacy Wednesday. Abdallahi said he plans to fight corruption and to reform the education system.
Elections are scheduled for March 11. The winner will serve for five years, according to a referendum passed earlier this year.
In November, Mauritania held its first legislative elections since the 2005 coup. A coalition of parties opposed to Taya won the largest share of seats.
Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960.


Updated : 2021-06-23 14:03 GMT+08:00