Mauritania is a highly centralized Islamic Republic with a president as head of state and a constitution grounded in French civil law and sharia (Islamic law). The National Assembly exercises legislative functions but was weak relative to the executive. Voters elect deputies at the National Assembly, municipal mayors, and regional councilors. Voters reelected President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to a second and constitutionally mandated-final five-year term in 2014. In August 2017 the government organized a referendum on constitutional amendments, which passed with 85 percent of the vote. One of the amendments led to the dissolution of the Senate and the transformation of the legislative system into a unicameral one. The number of seats at the new National Assembly increased from 147 to 157. In September the Union for the Republic (UPR), the president’s party, won 95 of 157 seats in the National Assembly in legislative elections.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included allegations of torture by law enforcement officers; arbitrary and politically motivated arrests; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and religion; widespread corruption; rape and domestic violence against women with few victims seeking legal recourse; ethnic discrimination by government actors; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; continued existence of slavery and slavery-related practices with antislavery organizations subjected to restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly; trafficking in persons; and minimal efforts to combat child labor.
The government took modest steps to punish officials who committed violations and prosecuted a number of violators, but officials frequently acted with impunity. Civil society organizations objected to the scant number of indictments handed down by the authorities.