Monday, March 12, 2007

The Muslim World's Youngest Democracy

No, it is not Iraq -- even though Iraq has officially only been a democracy for less then a year. The newest democracy is Mauritania, a country on the northeast of Africa about three times the size of New Mexico. According to the CIA factbook,Mauritania is populated by some 3.2 million people, all Muslim.

This is from Sandmonkey at the Middle East Journal:

It's hard not to get excited over what's going on in Muritania. I mean, a country that was ruled by a despot for 21 years gets a military coup, that gets done by a group of military officers who chose not to rule the people but hold fair and democratic elections, where not a single one of them or anyone backed by them gets to run, and where they will resign from power and the military after the new government is in place, and this is the middle-east? And they did this totally by themselves, without foreign intervention or pressure? How could you not love that?

Power in Mauritania has never changed hands at the ballot box, although past votes have been held by dictators amid opposition cries of fraud. The last president, Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya,took power in a 1984 coup and held it until a popular military junta led by Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall toppled him in August 2005.

Vall has been praised for ending the nation's history of totalitarian rule, making good on promises to ensure a free press and establish an independent judiciary. In June, he oversaw a successful referendum that enshrined basic constitutional liberties and limited future presidents to two five-year terms. Municipal and legislative elections took place in November.

"We have big hopes for democracy," said Ahmed Ould Daddah, a leading candidate in Sunday's race and a longtime opposition figure who ran twice against Taya in past ballots and spent four years under house arrest. "People are afraid of a return to the old ways. They are paranoid about this."

What great news.

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