A former Plaid Cymru MP often tipped as a future party leader has attacked the quality of Welsh assembly politicians.
Adam Price, who stood down as MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said Senedd politicians "lacked skills".
He said voters were not being offered a strong enough choice of candidates in next year's assembly election.
Political parties in Wales have criticised his comments, with the Welsh Lib Dems accusing him of "belittling" the assembly.
Mr Price, who had been tipped as the next leader of Plaid Cymru, stood down at the general election after serving two terms at Westminster.
In 2004, he led a high-profile attempt to impeach former Prime Minister Tony Blair over the Iraq war.
In 2007, he was one of the authors of the One Wales Agreement, the basis of the current Labour-Plaid coalition and has not ruled out standing in the 2011 Welsh assembly election.
He delivered his attack on current politicians at the Welsh assembly by telling BBC Wales' CF99 programme for S4C that a "lack of skills amongst politicians is making it difficult to tackle big economic challenges".
He said: "The gap between the problems we face in Wales and the skill-set of the people we're drawing in to politics is huge"
Mr Price, who is currently pursuing a scholarship in Harvard University, accused political parties of drawing politicians "from a vanishingly small gene-pool".
Plaid Cymru's deputy leader Helen Mary Jones said the assembly was a "better representation of Welsh society than Westminster".
She said: "Plaid Cymru believes that politicians should be representative.
"We've worked hard over the years to ensure that our candidates are drawn from across society and bring with them a variety of skills and experience."
'Walks of life'
A Welsh Labour spokesperson said: "We celebrate the fact that people from all walks of life have a role to play in our party and in our government - that, for us, is what democratic socialism and devolution are all about."
A spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: "It's unbelievable that Adam Price from Plaid Cymru has said this.
"We have to remember that Adam Price has never been a member of the assembly, has never sat in on any committees, and has never taken part in any debates in the chamber to discuss the budget or any issues that impact the lives of people in Wales."
Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne said: "Welsh Conservatives wholeheartedly agree that our 60 AMs should come from a wide range of skill-sets, properly representing the country we live in."