Partly as a result of the international pressure that is being placed on the military junta in Mauritania, the debate about the country’s redemocratisation process is taking shape. As part of that debate, the elements of a new constitutional arrangement are starting to be discussed.
Specifically, the themes to be discussed by the so-called état-généraux de la démocratie have been revealed. They are as follows (excuse the French):
• Attributions du Président de la République ;
• Attribution du Parlement ;
• Rapports entre les pouvoirs exécutif et législatif ;
• Moyens d’influence réciproques entre les pouvoirs ;
• Organe d’arbitrage entre les institutions ;
• Modalités d’organisation du pouvoir exécutif ;
• Place des Forces Armées et de Sécurité dans le dispositif politique et institutionnel ;
It does not require a masterful grasp of French, especially when combined with a little contemporary context, to realise that the role of the president is likely to be at the heart of the constitutional debate.
In August the coup was provoked by the military’s reaction to the president’s powers, particularly the president’s powers of appointment to the military and his threat to dissolve parliament. In this context, the place of the military in the new constitutional arrangement is one of the themes to be discussed. Also, according to at least one source, a reduction of the president’s power, including dissolution power, will be at the heart of any reforms. This source also speculates that, as before, the changes will be made to the 1991 constitution. A totally new constitution will not be written.
Crucially, from a semi-presidential perspective, there is speculation from the same source that the president may no longer be directly elected. If the president is to be a fairly weak figure, then, so the argument goes, the junta will argue that there is no need for direct election. (I’m sure that people in Austria, Ireland etc may disagree, but that is irrelevant). This would suit the junta, who, presumably, would be reluctant to sanction a redemocratisation process if it would result in a return to the status quo ante i.e. the situation before the coup. By contrast, if the president were to be elected by parliament, then they could be assured both of a weak president and of a president largely of their choice, given parliament’s inclination to support the military regime.
In other news, former President, Sidi Ould Chjeikh Abdellahi, who was deposed in the August coup, was placed in semi-liberty at the end of last week.