Mauritania political rivals debate state of nation
By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 15/08/12
Mauritanian politicians from across the spectrum gathered in Nouakchott last week to discuss the situation in the country as well as regional developments.
The August 10th seminar came in response to President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's "meeting with the people", an annual conference where the chief executive responds to people's questions.
Attendees tried to answer the question, "Are we really in a political crisis?" They also discussed repercussion of the Malian crisis on the domestic political situation.
Yerba Ould Skair, the leader of the ruling Union for the Republic Party (URP), said that the meeting of politicians of all persuasions in the seminar for the first time was a positive indicator that there was no political crisis.
"We can say we have a political crisis when there is an obstacle impeding progress and the natural course of things, and when there is a deadlock, chaos and institutional inability to proceed, and when there is an institutional crisis on the level of government, parliament and parties," he explained.
"All these things aren't present in Mauritania today, because all institutions and parties, some 93 parties, are regularly playing their roles," Ould Skair continued. "The elections were held and led to a majority that is now running the country and an opposition that opposes it. This is a proof that there is no crisis."
But opposition Rally for Democratic Forces (RFD) chief Ahmed Ould Lafdhal held a starkly different opinion. There is a political crisis evident in the country's inability to solve its problems, he said.
"The tenure of parliament expired months ago and it's now illegitimate," Lafdhal added. "Therefore, the government is not legal now because it is accountable to an illegitimate parliament, and when the parliament is illegitimate, the president's legitimacy itself becomes questionable."
"The manifestations of corruption are apparent in different sectors because the unemployment rate is 43% as per official statistics, and the rate of failure in the baccalaureate is 97%," he continued. "As to failure on the diplomatic level, it is represented in the position from the current crisis in Mali."
In his turn, Moustapha Abeid Rahman, head of the Democratic Renewal Party, admitted that there is a political crisis, though he believed it is less severe than how the opposition views it. "We aren't casting doubts on the legitimacy of president or regime," said Abeid Rahman.
"However, we haven't seen the application of some points that made us support the president, especially in terms of combating corruption in a real way, and also the bitter conflict against unilateral rule," Rahman added. "That was why we demanded changes to the constitution in order to have a state based on institutions."
On the situation in Mali, he said: "Our keenness on the stability of Mali, which is located on our border, is one of the necessities for Mauritania's domestic and security situation, and, consequently, it has become necessary for us to reach a political understanding in order to avoid that crisis."
Former Economy Minister and opposition figure Mohamed Ould Elabed was among the pessimists. He said that the country was dealing with "a suffocating political crisis", which "ruined the dream of building a state with a peaceful rotation of power".
The country's economy is plagued by "high inflation, high prices and falsification of figures", he added.
Meanwhile, leader of the Progressive Popular Alliance Mohamed Lemine Ould Naty struck a middle ground between the two approaches.
"The majority and opposition representatives are exaggerating in their approaches. Are we in a crisis?" he wondered.
"We're in an unsatisfactory reality, and anyone who is enthusiastic for this country feels that the country is in an unsatisfactory situation, especially as the regional situation is aggravating the complexity of conditions in our country, and is urging us to awaken national conscience and adopt a position where there are no winners or losers," he added.
"The solution must be participatory," Ould Naty commented. "If the current stage is not run with the efforts of all, it will be a unilateral administration that will have negative consequences on the situation."
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