Mauritania Government and Politics

Following the 1991 constitution, Mauritania is a presidential, unified state and formally multi-party republic according to The president is both head of state, head of government and military commander, and is elected in the general election for six years. Legislative power has been added to a Senate and a National Assembly. The Senate is elected for six years by local leaders, but so that part of the seats is renewed every two years; it has 56 seats. The National Assembly is elected in the general election for five years; it has 81 members. It is a separate constitutional council and a supreme Islamic council; moreover, an economic and social council.

Mauritania Country Flag

Reference: Mauritania Flag Meaning

Although the constitution was formally democratized in 1991, the country’s authoritarian traditions have a bearing on politics. Since independence in 1960, politics has been a source of tension, both in relation to neighboring countries and between the ruling Arab groups and the African groups in the country. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of MR and its meanings of Mauritania.


Administratively, the country is divided into 13 regions, including the metropolitan area, and these again in 208 districts. The regions are led by state governors. Selected advice has been introduced, but locally, tribal structures and traditional loyalties still play a major role.

The judiciary is based on both Islamic and French law. Shari’a law was introduced in 1980. A special Islamic court was established this year. Otherwise, the courts include a Supreme Court, a magistrate’s court with six regional departments, as well as civil courts and labor courts.

History and Politics

Early history

Around 10,000 BC The first people settled in what is now Mauritania. From the 3rd to the 10th century, two Berber peoples in particular settled in the area: Zanata and Sanhadscha. In the 4th century the Ghana Empire came into being in the south-east. A trade in gold, salt and slaves arose between West Africa and the Mediterranean (Trans-Saharan trade). Horses, fabrics and weapons came from North Africa for this.

Spread of Islam through the Almoravids

In the 7th century, Arabs brought Islam to North Africa. Islam did not reach West Africa until the 11th century. At this time the Almoravid Empire came into being, which also conquered all of Mauritania and incorporated the Empire of Ghana. The Almoravids were a ruling family of the Moors. Caravan cities emerged that developed into spiritual and cultural centers, for example Chinguetti, Ouadane and Oualata. The Almoravid Empire existed until 1147.

In the 13th century, the Mali Empire came into being, which was also located in what is now the south of Mauritania. In the Songhai Empire, which existed in West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries, today’s Mauritania only had a very small part in the southeast.

Arab invasion

Arabs who came from Yemen to present-day Mauritania in the 14th century had more influence. In particular, the Bani Hassan, a group of Arab tribes, brought the area under their control. The Berbers initially evaded to the south and were then defeated at the end of the 17th century, subordinated themselves and merged with the Arabs to form Moors. At the bottom of the hierarchy were the black slaves.

Colonial times

Around 1900 the French became more and more interested in Mauritania because it was like a link between their possessions in North and West Africa. In 1904 Mauritania was a French protected area, in 1920 it became a colony within French West Africa. It was not until 1934 that the last resistance was broken. After the Second World War, Mauritania became an autonomous republic with more rights. In 1960 the country finally gained independence on November 28th.


Moktar Ould Daddah first became head of government and then also president of Mauritania in 1961. He stayed in office until 1978. He ruled authoritarian. Famine as a result of droughts and the Western Sahara conflict (see page 2) led to his removal. The gap between Moors and Black Africans was also a problem.

Western Sahara conflict

The Western Sahara area was a Spanish colony for many years. While most of the African states were granted independence, Spain took its time and delayed it for Western Sahara. In 1973 a liberation movement, the Frente Polisario, was founded.

In 1976, Spain gave up its claim to the area and withdrew. Morocco and Mauritania divided the area between themselves. The Frente Polisario resisted, they wanted an independent state and proclaimed it under the name of the Democratic Arab Republic of the Sahara. In 1979 Mauritania renounced its territory, which was subsequently occupied by Morocco.

Today the larger, western part of Morocco is occupied, the border strip to Mauritania (yellow on the map) is in the hand of the positario. Your state is not recognized by all countries, and not even by the United Nations, which supports a referendum in the Sahara Republic. Such a vote has not yet taken place because Morocco and the Sahara Republic could not agree on who was entitled to vote at all.

Subversions: The Military in Power (1978-1984)

In the years following Ould Daddah’s government, the country experienced several upheavals. In 1978/79 the military ruled Mustafa Ould Salek. He could not cope with the problems and was overthrown by Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Louly (1979/80), who was replaced after only a few months by Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla. 1984 had also come to an end as President. Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya replaced him. By the way, you can find out what the ould means in the name here.

Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya (1984-2005)

Taya gave the country a new constitution in 1991 and implemented measures for democratization. There were free elections in 1992. Because there were no further reforms, there were several coup attempts. Such an attempt was not successful until 2005. Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall became head of state and announced free presidential elections.

Presidents in the 21st Century

In those elections in 2007, Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was elected as the new president.

But a coup led by Abdel Aziz ended his government in 2008. In 2009 there were elections again, which Abdel Aziz won. He also won the 2014 elections.

In 2019 Mohamed Ould Ghazouani became president.

Mauritania Head of Government

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