Americas: recall referendum in Venezuela; Peru’s new president; Mexico teachers’ strike

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) is expected to discuss the date for the start of the second of three stages in the recall-referendum process against President Nicolas Maduro on 1 August. The opposition MUD coalition has repeatedly denounced electoral authorities continue to delay the process. Opposition-led demonstrations in the vicinity of CNE premises in the capital Caracas are expected at least over the coming week with a risk of associated violence. The MUD recently stated it would only agree to a proposed direct dialogue with the government once the second stage is launched. Political tensions will likely remain high over the coming months.

Peru’s President-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski from the centre-right Peruanos Por el Kambio (PPK) party will take office on 28 July. Kuczynski’s cabinet will be mostly formed by technocrats with relevant experience in their fields. The choices confirm Peru’s new president’s commitment to maintaining Peru’s market-friendly policies, although it will have to strike a balance between a drive to re-start investments in the mining industry and manage ongoing conflicts and unfulfilled promises with local communities. Although a certain degree of populism should not be discarded, this is unlikely to erode the border policy framework. The spotlight in the coming months will likely be on the governability challenge posed by an opposition-controlled Congress.

In Mexico teachers from the CNTE union will likely continue their protest campaign against the government’s education reform. Since 15 May an indefinite strike has caused severe disruption to cargo transport and overland travel, triggered violent clashes and shortages of goods particularly in the CNTE’s main strongholds in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacan and Oaxaca. Union leaders recently announced plans to intensify blockades across these states and further demonstrations are expected in Mexico City. Ongoing negotiations with the government have yet to prove fruitful and further disruptive and potentially violent unrest should be expected.

Asia-Pacific: ceasefire in the Philippines; political stability in Indonesia; Myanmar’s peace talks

In the Philippines a cessation of hostilities with the country’s Maoist rebels is possible over the coming weeks. On 25 July newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte declared an immediate unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA). Peace talks will start in August. The 4,000-strong NPA regularly attacks the security forces and extorts money from private firms in rural areas. Deep-seated mistrust between the armed forces and the rebels means security concerns in areas of NPA influence will likely persist during the talks. However, Duterte’s openness to unprecedented concessions means a lasting peace deal is possible in the next 1-2 years.

The next few months in Indonesia will be indicative of President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s ability to continue building on recent gains in stabilising his government and liberalising the economy. Jokowi only won a legislative majority in January, over a year after assuming office. On 27 July he reshuffled his cabinet, rewarding his new coalition partners with ministerial positions in a move to cement support for the president and his economic reforms. The ruling coalition’s reliance on a wide variety of parties does make it fundamentally vulnerable, but improved political stability bodes well for Indonesia’s economic outlook amid a difficult external environment.

In Myanmar the next few weeks will be crucial in gauging the likelihood of success in late August’s Union Peace Conference, which is aimed at laying the groundwork for a nationwide peace deal with the country’s numerous ethnic rebel groups. On 26 July 17 rebel groups began negotiations to reach a consensus on federalisation. However, it was not attended by several groups that have recently fought government troops or by the powerful United Wa State Army. Unless some degree of unity is achieved before the conference, it will likely struggle to achieve a lasting and inclusive peace agreement.

Eurasia: Armenian stand-off highlights instability in the Caucasus

Gunmen from the nationalist opposition in Armenia continue to occupy Yerevan’s Erebuni police station, 11 days after seizing it in a shock raid that killed one police officer. Although they released their remaining police hostages on 23 July, tensions continued to escalate as street protests against the government, and tacitly in support of the gunmen, continue. Four of the gunmen were injured on 26-27 July after clashing with police while more than 200 demonstrators have been arrested and dozens of injuries reported. While it is unlikely that they would come to power even in the event of the government resignation, the nationalists’ calls for resumed conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory highlight the risk that the conflict there could spike at short notice.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Georgia, both the head of the Constitutional Court and the president have criticised the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party for allegedly ‘pressuring’ the other branches of government, which may fuel the opposition’s criticism of the government ahead of the October legislative elections.

Europe: Italian bank bailout discussions continue

For the first week since the 23 June ‘Brexit’ vote in the United Kingdom, European politics have been dominated by a separate issue within the EU, namely how Italy will organise additional support for its suffering banking sector. Italy has appealed for an exemption from new EU rules that insist bondholders be ‘bailed-in’ before a public bailout can be implemented as it fears doing so could lead to a major capital outflow and cause major harm to smaller banks. Current efforts are centred on trying to arrange a private bailout for Monte Paschi di Siena. It is likely Italy will eventually secure some kind of exemption should it need to. Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Greece moved to loosen some of the capital controls implemented last year when fears spiked the country would crash out of the Eurozone but gave no indication as to when they would be lifted completed.

Sub-Saharan Africa: insecurity set to persist

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted unanimously to extend the mandate of peacekeepers in Central African Republic until November 2017. The UNSC called on the new president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, to urgently address local grievances and foster reconciliation between Muslims and Christians to quell sectarian violence in the country. While the security situation has improved somewhat following elections in March, it nevertheless remains fragile owing to the presence of militias and armed groups, as well as weak institutions. Further sectarian clashes are likely in the coming weeks, and the security threat to civilians remains high.

The security environment also continues to deteriorate in Mali, where in the past week armed clashes between pro-government forces and Tuareg rebels in the city of Kidal and protests in the north-eastern city of Gao have highlighted the fragility of a peace agreement signed in 2015. While fighting between signatories to the agreement risks renewed civil war, a 19 July attack on an army base in Nampala by Islamist group Ansar Dine further damages the likelihood of peace. The lackluster implementation of the Algiers Agreement, including greater devolution to restless northern regions, will continue to be punctuated by violent clashes and terrorist attacks in the coming weeks, with West Africa’s porous borders meaning the risk of attacks in neighbouring countries has also risen.

In South Sudan Taban Deng Gai, the former minister of mining and chief Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – in Opposition (SPLM-IO) negotiator during peace talks in 2015, was sworn in as First Vice President on 26 July in a move likely to split the SPLM-IO in the coming days. Former first vice president Riek Machar denounced the appointment as illegal, and claimed he still had the support of the vast majority of the SPLM-IO leadership, although Deng appears to have importantly secured the backing of some leaders who remain in Juba, as well as President Salva Kiir. The security environment will likely deteriorate in the short term, with violent clashes between pro-government troops and those who remain loyal to Machar probable.