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Mauritania votes in constitutional referendum on presidential term limits

[JURIST] Citizens of the north African state of Mauritania [CIA backgrounder; official website, in Arabic] voted Sunday on a constitutional amendment that would limit the number of terms that a president can serve. The vote follows a successful coup attempt [JURIST report] last August by a military group that sought to overthrow former President Maaouiya Ould Taya [Wikipedia profile], who controlled the country for 20 years, despite several coup bids against him [JURIST report]. The amendment would make it more difficult for elected presidents to automatically change laws when they take office and would only allow a president to serve no more than two terms with 5-year limits.

The Saharan Islamic republic borders West Africa and many Mauritanians of African descent say that the amendment does nothing to correct the continuing inequality in the nation. They say that changes, such as making French one of the county's official languages, should be included since they do not generally use Arabic. Results of the referendum are expected to be announced on Monday and a presidential election is currently scheduled for next March. If the amendment passes, Mauritania will be one of the few Arab nations to allow a limit on presidential terms. Reuters has more.

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