Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, Mauritania’s president declared the senate as “useless and too costly,” a statement that was further affirmed in a referendum that was held in the country on Saturday where there was a turnout of 53.73%, with 85% voting to have the senate scrapped and the national flag changed.
Mauritania, which was colonised by France will have its current green flag with yellow Islamic crescent and star, feature red bands to honour the blood spilt by those who fought for freedom from France. According to President Aziz, the abolishment of the senate, would improve governance by introducing more local forms of lawmaking.
There have been allegations that President Aziz plans on extending his tenure in power and giving more power to himself, a claim he has refuted.
Nigeria is another country that has suffered the misfortune of having an expensive senate, which has been seen by critics as ineffective and unnecessary. Just recently, the lawmakers took new cars, Peugeot 508 series for “utility services,” despite the state of the economy. Each of the vehicles cost $46,543 (N17m) and will consume a total of $17m (N6.1bn) to supply all 360 units. The average Nigerian senator is said to receive more salary than the U.S. president.
The cost of governance in many African countries is outrageous. The institution of democracy is expensive and many lawmakers and politicians all over Africa use these positions to enrich themselves.
However, the Mauritanian opposition said it would not recognize the results of the referendum. The proposal to modify the constitution, which has been in force since 1991, was rejected by the Senate in March by more than half of the 56-seat Senate. The proposal had earlier been approved by the nation’s lower house of parliament, prompting Aziz to call the referendum.
The changes of the 1991 constitution included abolishing the upper house of parliament, or the Senate, and replacing it with elected regional councils. The Senate had been accused of corruption. Aziz said the changes would bring Mauritania “peace, security, stability and development” and said the boycott movement existed “only on paper and social media.”