Several thousand Mauritanians took to the streets Saturday to protest a controversial constitutional referendum due on August 5, according to AFP journalists at the demonstration organised by an opposition coalition.
The "No" coalition is drawn from a broad political spectrum including Islamists and anti-slavery activists in the conservative west African nation, all of whom oppose measures including abolishing the senate and changing the national flag.
Saturday's march was followed by a rally where speakers denounced President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz for what was termed a "coup d'etat against the constitution."
Jemil Ould Mansour, head of the Islamic Tewassoul party spearheading the movement against the vote, described the protest's turnout as "giving the result in advance," calling it "a clear message to the regime to put an end to this useless venture."
Senators rejected the abolition of their own chamber in March, apparently to the government's surprise as a majority are from the ruling party, prompting Aziz to call the referendum.
But the opposition fears that despite Aziz's claims to the contrary he is laying the groundwork for a third term in power, with his own prime minister saying recently he supported the idea.
The march was the first action by the new "active boycott" movement, which has vowed to oppose the vote at every step.