Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Saturday, April 7

Election updates

In its most open elections since independence, Mauritania chose Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi as president. Abdallahi is a serious and reserved French-educated economist. While generally well-respected, he may not mark too radical a change from the past. He served as a minister under the former Ould Taya dictatorship and had the support of the coalition that had backed that regime. He also had the tacit support of Ely Ould Mohamed Vall - who deposed Ould Taya in a coup in 2005 before organizing the elections - and of the army. He defeated opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah in the runoff. Abdallahi is certainly a hopeful improvement over years of military rule. But it remains to be seen whether Abdallahi will go further than his predecessors in cracking down on slavery, which is still prevalent, and in reducing inequality between the lighter-skinned "white Moor" elite (to which Abdallahi belongs), and the larger "black Moor" and "black African" populations. Aballahi will also have to manage Mauritania's newfound oil wealth.

Benin held its parliamentary elections late after the head of the Electoral Commission was impeached. The election seems to have gone smoothly, however, with President Thomas Boni Yayi's FCBE coalition winning the most seats. Boni Yayi came to office last year pledging to fight corruption, but the parliament had still been dominated by parties supporting the old political elite. With a parliamentary majority now behind him, Yayi will have a chance to show that he's serious about governance reform.

And the constitutional referendum in Egypt passed with 76 percent approval, to nobody's surprise. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights which, along with most civil society organizations, opposed the measures, estimated turnout at 5 percent. The official estimate was only 27 percent. Egyptian blogs also posted footage claiming to show ballot-stuffing. While the US issued a statement expressing disappointment with the referendum, nobody expects the US to actually do anything about it.