The political circumstances in Mauritania building up the election and what it might change in the political / economic arena

The Mauritanian legislative and municipal elections that are overdue and which had been repeatedly delayed will finally be held in a very delicate domestic, regional, and international context; as many constraining factors may impact on their ultimate outcome; talk less of the numerous challenges that could prevent them from being crowned by an unmitigated success.

Indeed, the present Mauritanian political context is characterized by a totally atomized and polarized political class; since over one hundred small political parties with no clear cut political programs nor precise ideological referentials swarm the national arena. They keep shuttling back and forth between the coalition of the opposition parties and the presidential majority parties, provoking thereby a constant change of the contours of these two entities.

More over there is a deep and long standing mistrust between the state party (UPR: Union Pour la Republique) and the radical opposition parties (COD : Coordination de l’opposition  democratique )  that reaches back to the unsuccessful political dialogue they engaged in at Dakar following the military coup d’état that ousted former president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi on August 5, 2008 . A Subsequent dialogue between the two sides and their respective allies on the appropriate conditions for a thorough and agreed upon preparation of the municipal and legislative elections had once again failed.

 This string of failures that each side blamed on the other had widened the gap separating them and brought about a great deal of bitterness and enmity between them. And the two parties seem, up to now, unable or/ and unwilling to get over their hard feelings toward each other; hence the extreme difficulty for them to reach an agreement on the ways and means to organize and conduct the forth coming elections in a consensual and appeased atmosphere.

The negative effect of this sharp polarization between the protagonists and the mutual rejection that goes with it , are worsened by the lack of cohesion and the absence of harmony that prevail in each one of the existing political parties and which culminate in a strong tendency to political nomadism that lead in its turn to shiftlessness and instability. This anarchical restlessness and the pervasive unfriendly mood that goes with it are not congenial to a constructive consensual, political enterprise. And there seem to be no effort on behalf the political authorities to undertake any significant reconciliatory efforts to dissipate the prevailing general discontent which is experienced more deeply by the disgruntled opposition. The political regime is apparently more inclined to lock horns with the opposition than to seek a consensual dialogue with it.

In addition to this inadequate socio- political atmosphere, the country goes presently through a paradoxical economic situation that consists in particular in a growing pauperization, aggravated, as it is , by the sky-rocketing prices of the main commodities, the growing rate of unemployment and the declining purchasing power of the populace, all this is happening while the overall economic situation of the country is said to be good as far as the national revenues are concerned. The good management of national resources, the receding corruption and the rationalization of public expenditure don’t seem however to have a significant impact on the daily life of the average citizen and are, sometimes said to be beneficial only for the inner circles of the political regime.

On the regional and international plan, the country’s security is threatened now more than ever before, due to the fall outs   of the political crisis prevailing in the contiguous northern Mali and  to the very dangerous menace posed by Al Qaida operating near the country’s frontiers   with both  Mali and Algeria, where Jihadist Groups are on the rampage. All this is occurring within the frame work of an international economic crisis that hits most of the world countries, including Mauritania, which suffers from the rising costs of the indispensable commodities  it imports and the falling prices of the products it exports ( iron, gold, copper, etc.).

This is the context which will be the stage of the municipal parliamentary elections due on November 23d, 2013.

All these factors that we have mentioned above are likely to impact adversely on their hitch free organizations; as they may be impaired by the upstream hostile action of the rejectionist opposition; they may also be tarnished, down the road, by those instable political parties which change positions and allegiances according to the vested interests of their members.

The present Mauritanian context being what it is, one may wonder how the composition and the dominant political color of the future Mauritanian parliament and municipal councils will be like. Will they continue to be dominated as in the past by the party of the president and its close allies? Or will that setting change? Will Mauritania have a polychrome parliament that will not anymore take its orders from the executive? If so, will that eventually lead to a confrontation between the government and the parliament? Resulting in a deadlock and ultimately in a political crisis? Will the president allow that to happened a year away from the presidential election where he will be a candidate to his own succession?  As a matter of fact it is very likely that he will not take the risk to see instated either municipal councils or a parliament that may jeopardize his plans, cripple his action and stand in the way of his reelection next year.

 This is why it is not to be ruled out that , he will by hook or by crook , resort to all the maneuvers  , pressures , to entice, to lure , to browbeat and  to coax the wavering and shaky parties into coalescing and joining the presidential majority ,ensuring him thereby the comfortable parliamentarian majority he needs to rule the country without constraint.

Yet one may not be totally wrong if one says that most Mauritanians may prefer a statut-quo ante to a crippling deadlock or a hazardous political crisis conducive to anarchy and chaos.

Nouakchott, November 15, 2013.

EL KETTAB Mouhamed Lemine

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