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Doubts, Problems Face New Mauritanian Government

Opposition leaders in Mauritania have voiced concerns over the composition of the new government in Nouakchott. Brent Latham reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar the new government is facing a lack of broad popular support and a worsening socio-economic situation.

Opposition parties in Mauritania are expressing concern over the composition of the new government installed by Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf.

The previous government, also headed by Mr. Waghf, resigned July 3, after only seven weeks to avoid a censure motion to be filed by members of the ruling party in parliament. Unlike the previous government, the new one includes only members of the ruling National Pact for Development and Democracy party.

A lawyer and spokesman for one of the opposition parties, Brahim Ould Ebety, says the snub will cost the ruling party popular support.

Ebety says the new government has no popular base and will not last more than a few months. He says the new government is unlikely to present new ideas to combat the problems Mauritanians face, including the on-going crisis of rising food and fuel costs.

An Africa analyst for London-based economic and political forecasting group Global Insight, Kissy Agyeman, says the new government faces the same challenges as the old one.

"The point is that it was not just for the fact that the previous government had members of the opposition in it that it folded, but also because the legislative had become very impatient with the situation on the ground and those soaring food and commodity prices," said Kissy Agyeman. "There was a sense that the prime minister had not taken a hold of the situation firmly enough."

Agyeman says the Prime Minister has not outlined his new plan for tackling Mauritania's difficulties. She says the socio-economic situation the country faces is likely to pose problems, especially if the new government is unable to garner popular support.

Despite the challenges, Agyeman says the new government may bring a measure of stability to Mauritania, because rebel factions in the ruling party have been accommodated.

"What you can deduce from this new line-up is that the prime minister has been keen to placate the dissident voices within the parliament, those who filed a motion of no confidence against his last government, who were saying that there were too many moderate Islamists in the government and too many opposition members," she said. "On the face of it, it should give some sort of stability, but for how long is the question. "

The new government is the third in 15 months for the impoverished nation. Mauritania's young democracy has endured turbulence since long-time ruler Maaouiya Ould Taya was deposed in a military coup in 2005, the leader of which then handed power over to the democratically-elected and current President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abadallahi.