Mauritania [BBC country profile] conducted a referendum on Saturday to abolish the senate and to change the national flag. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz applauded the vote [Reuters report] and and said the move to abolish the governing body would improve governance by introducing more local forms of lawmaking. Opposition to the president’s administration boycotted the vote and said that the referendum would give the president too much power, allowing him to extend the number of terms he is allowed to remain in office under the Mauritania constitution.
Referendums are often used internationally to dramatically change state law or practices and this is the second Mauritania has seen in a little over 10 years. Aziz first came into office in 2008 [JURIST report] when a coup he backed removed then-President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. This was the second coup in which Aziz was involved, as in 2005 he backed a additional coup [JURIST report] that removed then-President Maaoya Sid’Ahmed Taya. Following the coup in 2005, Mauritania held a referendum to amend the state constitution to limit the number of terms [JURIST report] that a president can serve.