Americas: anti-government demonstrations to continue in Venezuela; high risk of violence
Key Risks: civil unrest; violent clashes; political instability; looting
In Venezuela, anti-government demonstrations are expected to persist at least over the coming days as the opposition plans to continue to take to the streets to demand early presidential elections, the release of political prisoners and respect for the opposition-led National Assembly (NA), currently declared in contempt. The opposition is also seeking the removal of the Supreme Court justices who on 29 March ruled to take over the NA’s powers, a decision that triggered an ongoing wave of unrest that intensified even after the Supreme Court backtracked on its controversial move. At least 21 people have been killed since early April amid looting incidents, clashes with the security forces and violence between rival activists. Demonstrations and sit-ins are expected across Venezuela’s 23 states and in the capital Caracas on 24 April. Police repression and violent incidents cannot be ruled out.
Asia-Pacific: 2017 ASEAN Summit meeting to test ten-member group’s solidarity
Key Risks: external conflict
The Philippines is hosting the 30th ASEAN summit meeting from 26-29 April, with member states’ maritime conflicts over the South China Sea likely to be high on the agenda. The Philippines is aiming to lead the ten-member organisation in creating a legally binding code of conduct for the disputed waters, although President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to bring his country close to Beijing at the expense of its traditional ally in Washington raises questions about its ability to do so. This could prompt Duterte to attempt to focus on terrorism and the proliferation of illegal drugs at the summit rather than maritime disputes, to the chagrin of Vietnam, Malaysia and states which are seeking a more coherent response to China. For all the hype, the maritime legal code is unlikely to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea, in which China is acting with increasing assertiveness.
Eurasia: death of US national working for OSCE highlights continued eastern Ukraine risks
Sectors: energy; mining; metals
Key Risks: frustration of process; sanctions
A US paramedic with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Ukraine died when an OSCE vehicle struck a mine in Pryshyb in separatist-controlled Luhansk Oblast, becoming the first OSCE staffer to be killed in Ukraine. Two others were injured. The US State Department called on Russia to pursue a peaceful solution to the conflict and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson subsequently phoned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to reiterate US support for Kiev, reversing his much-criticised recent comments but not offering any new measures. Nevertheless, the blast demonstrates the continued risk the conflict in eastern Ukraine could prompt a new regional, or potentially international crisis, as it did after Russian-backed forces shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in June 2015.
Europe: Balkan tensions rise over Albanian issues
Key Risks: political instability; ethnic tensions; civil unrest
Tensions across the Balkans in the coming weeks will focus on Albanian issues, related both to the state itself, majority-Albanian Kosovo, and to developments regarding ethnic Albanian parties in neighbouring Macedonia, which has been stuck in political crisis since the beginning of March. Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov and the former ruling VMRO-DPMNE show no sign of backing down in their demands that a proposed coalition of the Social Democratic Union and ethnic Albanian parties withdraw a coalition agreement that would make Albanian a national language. Meanwhile, Albania has seen tensions spike with Serbia over Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s statements that Tirana could seek a union with Kosovo, whose independence Serbia does not accept, if EU integration fails. Meanwhile Albania’s domestic political opposition is planning on boycotting the 18 June legislative election that could lead to a domestic crisis there as well.
MENA: government reshuffle shows
Sectors: banking and finance; trade; energy; heavy industry
Key Risks: international relations; trade flows
King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud announced a reshuffle of junior ministerial and regional governorship posts. Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was promoted to the position of minister of state for energy affairs, being removed from his long-time role as deputy oil minister. This move in particular will hearten investors concerned about Al Saud interference in state oil company Saudi Aramco ahead of its IPO in 2018 or early 2019. Prince Abdullah bin Faisal was replaced by King Salman’s son Prince Khalid bin Salman, a recent US university graduate, as ambassador to the US. The reshuffle indicates a renewed pragmatism among Saudi policymakers to ensure the kingdom can continue to benefit from foreign investor confidence and is able to maintain its US relationship under President Trump through strong personal connections.
Sub-Saharan Africa: primaries postponed as chaos disrupts polls
Key Risks: electoral violence; political uncertainty
Logistical issues, complaints over the electoral register, and skirmishes between opponents marred the party primary elections of Kenya’s ruling Jubilee party on 21 April. Similar trends were observed with opposition Nasa primaries earlier in the month. Of the 21 scheduled polls, 3 were postponed. The Nairobi primaries will be held on 26 April. Politicians were accused of stoking violence through the use of hate speech, mirroring the climate of the 2007 general election, which resulted in over 1,000 people being killed. The electoral process has remained the topic of much contention over recent years, and is likely to continue to be a key issue and test of the strength of Kenya’s judicial institutions. All party primaries are expected to conclude this week, but tensions will continue to run high ahead of the August general election given the winner-takes-all style of political competition, where ethnicity remains the key political cleavage.