- For the first time in the history of Mauritania, a women will present herself as candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. Aicha Mint Jeddan left her positions in the ruling Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS) to prepare for her campaign.
43-year-old businesswoman Aicha Mint Jeddan has acted as the Federal Secretary of the PRDS in the central region of Kiffa during her many years participating in Mauritanian politics. She is said to have her power basis in this region, 600 kilometres east of the capital Nouakchott.
Ms Jeddan will be the first woman to stand candidate for the Mauritanian presidency in the polls to be arranged in October this year. With her candidacy and possible presidency, she has promised to "change the image of the Mauritanian women" both within the country and abroad, according to herself.
However, and despite her ambitions, her track to the Mauritanian presidency is by no means assured. To be able to achieve an official approval of her candidacy, Ms Jeddan needs the recommendation of at least 50 members of Parliament. By now, she has only achieved the half of this needed support, but Ms Jeddan is said to be confident in collecting the outstanding signatures within short time.
If complying with the registration procedure, Ms Jeddan will also face fierce competition from incumbent President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who again will be the official candidate for the ruling PRDS party.
President Ould Taya came to power in a military coup in 1984. He was however confirmed in his position as Head of State in the country's first democratic elections in 1992. Since then, he has allowed a limited democratisation to take place, although several elections have been marked by last-minute banning of political parties threatening the position of the PRDS.
Ms Jeddan is however given a fair chance in competing with President Ould Taya. According to members of Parliament supporting her candidacy, Ms Jeddan has secured a firm power base after her political work in Kiffa and has also reached national fame. She was therefore said to be in a good position to challenge Mr Ould Taya.
Mauritania has experienced a slow but steady improvement of women's position in society, enabling Ms Jeddan to stand candidate. According to Ms Jeddan however, this process is going far to slow and a key part of her election programme is focusing on women's rights.
The candidate is to campaign for the ending of the harmful practice of female genital mutilation and against forced marriage, among other women's rights issues. While urban Mauritanian women have seen great improvements in their rights situation, many rural women are still victims of these harmful practices.
An estimated 25 percent of the women in Mauritania undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). Among so-called "Halpulaar" women, over 95 percent still undergo FGM. The practice of FGM has decreased significantly in urban centres during the last decade.
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