Mauritania Leader Seeks Reelection As Nation’s Set to Become a Gas Producer

Mauritania Leader Seeks Reelection As Nation’s Set to Become a Gas Producer

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(Bloomberg) — Mauritania’s incumbent president is likely to secure a second term in elections on Saturday, providing investors with an assurance of policy continuity in a European Union ally that’s on the cusp of becoming a gas producer.

President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani’s chances of being reelected were boosted by the ruling Equity Party’s landslide victory in a legislative vote last year. He’s also avoided the instability that’s wracked other countries in West Africa shaken by coups and Islamist insurgencies.

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“President Ghazouani will likely get reelected,” said Mucahid Durmaz, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft. “The incumbent holds significant electoral advantages, including the governing party’s strong grip over state institutions that facilitated its landslide victory in last year’s legislative election.”

Ghazouani has fostered ties with the EU, which will become a customer for gas Mauritania will start producing later this year. The West African nation has a share in the giant offshore Grand Tortue Ahmeyim gas field that straddles its border with Senegal. 

The project is expected to initially produce about 2.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year. Mauritania is also seeking partners for a second natural gas discovery, the BirAllah offshore field, which holds about 80 trillion cubic feet of gas, after a license held by BP Plc and Kosmos Energy Ltd. expired in April.

The gas boon is expected to help lift economic growth in the desert nation of 4.7 million people to 5.5% in 2025, compared with 4.3% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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EU Relations

Mauritania’s plans to become a hub for what’s known as green hydrogen has also raised European interest, with Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen among the latest in a string of dignitaries passing through Nouakchott, the capital.

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“The EU sees Mauritania as an alternative source of energy and an actor in curbing African migration to Europe,” said Durmaz. “Mauritania’s significance for the EU is also rooted in its stance as one of the few remaining Western partners in a region that has seen increasing Russian influence.”

Ghazouani, 67, faces six other candidates in the election, among them Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, a prominent anti-slavery activist who came second in the 2019 vote. Other rivals include Hamadi Ould Sid’ El Moctar from the main Islamist opposition party, the National Rally for Reform and Development, or Tawassoul.

Abeid has criticized Ghazouani’s human rights record and the continued marginalization of Mauritania’s Black African population.

Slavery, which was only abolished in 1981, still impacts a fifth of the population that’s “systematically excluded from power,” according to the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a foundation affiliated with Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party.

The results of the vote are expected next week. If there’s no outright winner in the first round, the top two candidates will go to a runoff on July 14. 

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