The plot was laid out in Brussels. The proposal was made by Mauritanian Prime Minister Maoulay Ould Mohamed Laghdaf to the European Commission in Brussels on 20 February. It suggests that General Mohamed Ouled Abdel Aziz to resign his position as head of government at the end of April, allowing an interim government to oversee the June elections. This “solution” to the country’s crisis serves to benefit the junta by giving the regime legitimacy it does not deserve and by dividing Western opinion. The goal remains the same as ever: Maintaining the junta’s grip on power.
Whether or not this works depends on many factors, among them being: The relative intelligence (or ignorance) and will power of the Americans and Europeans; The continued support of Gen. Ghazouani; Whether or not Ely Vall is able to get out of the military and run (which would complicate some things for the junta); and the unity and hardheadedness of the opposition. The three step plan would go like this:
- Abdel Aziz resigns as Chef d’Etat and runs for president. If he runs, he will most likely win. The HCE will not be dissolved, as there is little talk of that. Keep note of that.
- In the meantime, the Speaker of Parliament, Ba M’bare, will take over in his stead. The important part here is that Ba M’bare is taking over: He has been was a vocal opponent of the coup and the junta and his being placed as the head of government would ideally persuade either the Europeans or the Americans that the move is genuine. In this scheme, one would reject it, creating a split. Abel Aziz is banking on the Europeans being more amenable to the move, with the Americans — who have dug in their heels against the junta– isolated from the process.
- Ba M’bare would be sacked and replaced by Senator Mohsin Ould el-Haj, perhaps the junta’s most friendly civilian. This will entrench Abdel Aziz’s position and make the parliament a base of power. Regardless of what happens to the HCE, the junta would still have a strong backer at the top.
Things to keep in mind:
- There is no discussion of dissolving the HCE, the locus of the junta’s power. While this body remains in place it will difficult to assign credibility to an election or political “concession” of any kind. And as opposition figures have noted: This whole effort is shamelessly “cosmetic.”
- The tangible relevance of civilian figures is easily over estimated. The military is running the show, no matter which technocrat or civilian is appointed to what post. The motivation of the influential pro-coup civilians is mainly prestige and their function is to cover the backs of the military. This holds for Ould el-Haj and for PM Laghdaf, the former Ambassador to Brussels who serves as part of an attempt to please the Europeans. Any civilian that ends up in a position of “authority” cannot should not be taken at face value.
- Talk about Ghazouani being sacked is probably not correct. The junta would not make its intentions public in such a way because it would undermine their authority: They do not take directions from the outside or wish to be seen as consulting alternative authority. Ghazouani is also a close ally of Abel Aziz and without him there is no credible high ranking military figure that can back up Abdel Aziz in the way he does: Felix Negre belongs to no tribe, and as such is of significantly less political value. Ghazouani comes with tribal support. There is, however, talk of a great deal of discontent among some in the officer caste and the civilian sector who are collaborating to drive wedges between Abdel Aziz and Ghazouani. The story leaking information about Ghazouani potentially being sacked may be viewed in this context. While these efforts may be fruitless, the military is not a unitary actor, as the past and present show. For now, though, the junta’s top is relatively tight.
- An alternative scenario could lead to Sidioca 2.0: Abdel Aziz resigns, sacks M’bare for Ould el-Haj and backs Laghdaf for president, retaining his seat as head of the HCE.