Americas: trial that could lead to Temer’s fall set to begin in Brazil
Key Risks: political instability; strikes and demonstrations; corruption fallout; governability
In Brazil, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) will begin the trial to define whether the 2014 Rousseff-Temer ticket should be annulled due to illegal electoral financing. The ruling could force President Michel Temer, who took office in August 2016 following former president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, to step down. A final decision is likely to take months. However, the trial is expected to further stoke political turbulence within Temer’s administration and could potentially delay the government’s proposed fiscal reforms. Temer’s popularity is currently at 10 per cent and demonstrations against reform plans have recently increased. Even if the TSE decides that Temer should not step down – which could happen should he be absolved or should the electoral campaigns be judged separately – pressure on Temer’s position is expected to increase until the end of his term in December 2018.
Asia-Pacific: Xi and Trump meeting will set tone for country’s relations
Key Risks: bilateral tensions, international relations, economic
United States President Donald Trump will host his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago on 6-7 April in a meeting that will finally make apparent the shape of the two country’s relations over the next few years. While Trump attacked China’s economic practices on the campaign trail, his stance has become much less clear since coming to office. After threatening to abandon his support for the “One China Principle”, Trump reaffirmed it during his first call with Xi in February. With Xi preparing for the 19th Party Congress later this year, he we will be keen to focus on domestic issues rather than becoming embroiled in a destructive trade war with the United States, although will be equally wary of making economic concessions that would anger nationalists at home. Both sides will look for a “win-win” outcome from the talks, but they will likely disagree on what it looks like.
Eurasia: potash project in Turkmenistan highlights low prospects for new Russia-Belarus cartel
Key Risks: frustration of process, bilateral tensions
On 31 March Turkmenistan’ President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov inaugurated the Garylk potash mine and processing plant, built by Belarus’ state-owned Belarus Potash Company, also known as Belaruskali, one of the leading global potash producers. The plant is reportedly set to produce up to 1.4m million tons per annum, which would have accounted for up to 1.5 per cent of global production in recent years. Major projects in Canada and Belarus are also expected to come online this year, raising global supply amid already record-low prices. The construction of the plant is one of the few successful examples of bilateral cooperation with any country for both Belarus and Turkmenistan, both of which are restrictive dictatorships. The completion comes a day before a meeting between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. While Lukashenko has touted restarting the cartel between Belaruskali and Russia’s Uralkali, recent tensions make this unlikely.
Europe: Macedonia remains in turmoil as Serbia holds orderly election
Key Risks: political instability, civil unrest
EU Council President Donald Tusk is travelling to Macedonia today in the latest attempt to break the constitutional crisis there which has seen President Gjorge Ivanov and his VMRO-DPMNE party block a coalition of ethnic Albanian parties and the Social Democratic Union from forming a government for over a month. The previous day the VMRO-DPMNE issued a manifesto that showed no signs of backing down and called for parliamentary reform that would stack the chamber in its favour. The crisis shows no sign of being imminently resolved, however, crucially on 30 March the IMF announced it was extending support for the country, although it insisted the new government needs to tackle major reforms. In contrast, Serbia held orderly, if uncompetitive presidential elections that were easily won by incumbent prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, who will consolidate power although the vote will see Serbia’ current political agenda remain for at least the coming two years.
MENA: Egyptian president in state visit to US
Sectors: security, economy, foreign investment
Key Risks: civil unrest, terrorism
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived in Washington DC on 2 April for his first state visit since his election in 2014, and his first meeting with US President Donald Trump since Trump’s inauguration. Sisi and Trump last met in September 2016 at the UN General Assembly. The two appear to have a warm relationship, with Trump successfully imploring the Egyptians through a direct telephone call to President Sisi in December 2016 to withdraw their sponsorship of a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel. The statesmen’s relationship and this visit will be positive for the Egyptian state, with Sisi likely to return home with the desired promises of additional multilateral financial aid, American investment and a firm commitment to Egyptian security from President Trump.
Sub-Saharan Africa: talks over elections break down as violence escalates in Kasais
Key Risks: political uncertainty; civil unrest; political violence
Attempts to resolve the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo have suffered numerous setbacks. The influential Catholic church withdrew from talks to form a transitional government and schedule elections, while the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress opposition party termed the dialogue a ‘big joke’. Talks had been ongoing since January, however President Joseph Kabila shows no signs of stepping down despite his mandate having expired. As the impasse continues, violence has escalated, particularly in the Kasai regions following the killing of a traditional leader Kamwina Nsapu, who was leading an uprising against Kabila. Two UN experts, US citizen Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zaida Catalan, were found dead in central Kasai on 28 March after being kidnapped a fortnight earlier. Also in March, 40 policemen were decapitated and electoral offices raided. Recent developments shroud the political future in deeper uncertainty. Villes mortes and violent protests are likely over the coming weeks, while escalation to civil war cannot be ruled out.