Americas: embattled President Temer fights for survival
Key Risks: political instability; civil unrest; corruption fallout
In Brazil, President Michel Temer appears determined to fight for his political survival after fresh bribery allegations made public on 17 May put his presidency at the verge of collapse. Since then, several impeachment requests have been filed in the lower house of Congress, the Supreme Court has authorised an investigation into the allegations, the Brazilian Socialist Party has withdrawn from the ruling coalition and Temer has increased efforts to prevent further defections that could lead to his resignation or removal from office. Should Temer fail to keep major allies in the coalition, he will likely be left with no option but to resign. Should this occur, pressure for snap direct elections will mount. Protests demanding Temer’s resignation have erupted across Brazil and are expected to continue over the coming days. Political uncertainty and instability will remain high.
Asia-Pacific: Myanmar government peace process faces major challenges
Key Risks: internal conflict; civil unrest
On 24 May Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government will host the United Peace Conference with various ethnic groups as it attempts to end Myanmar’s various long-running ethnic conflicts. While the NLD holds achieving peace to be its key aim in government, so far success has been limited. Eight ethnic insurgencies have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), including major group the Karen National Union, which signed the agreement in 2012. However, in the last half-year fighting between the military and ethnic groups has intensified in Kachin and Shan states, with a block of ten insurgencies led by de-facto autonomous group Wa State refusing the NCA’s terms. It is unclear whether these groups will attend the conference. Unless it engages with the bloc, it is hard to see how the NLD will be able to bring about lasting peace in Myanmar.
Eurasia: Uzbekistan seeks a partner in Turkmenistan
Sectors: oil; gas; electricity; transportation
Key Risks: forex shortages; lack of financing
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan signed a memorandum of understanding on the joint development of oil and gas deposits in the Caspian Sea in the second meeting between their presidents in the past six months. Uzbekistan has no access to the Caspian itself. The pair also signed an agreement envisaging re-unifying their electricity grids in exchange for Uzbekistan cancelling some Turkmen debt. The agreements, while lacking financing and detail, represents the efforts of Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in power since September 2016, to boost regional cooperation. Mirziyoyev even suggested Uzbekistan could support the much-maligned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project. Neither state has the finances to significantly expand energy exploration without outside support, however. Nevertheless, Mirziyoyev has also prominently reached out to longstanding opponent Tajikistan and he is likely to continue to pursue efforts to boost regional cooperation and trade in Central Asia.
Europe: political turbulence ahead for Spain and Austria
Key Risks: political stability; separatism
Pedro Sanchez was re-elected leader of Spain’s Socialist Party on 21 May, nine months after his ouster for refusing to allow the centre-right Popular Party to form a minority government, increasing the possibility of an early election. The following day newspaper El Pais claimed the Catalonian government is secretly preparing a bill that will outline its move to independence, which it will pass if Madrid continues to refuse an independence referendum. Catalan politicians have pledged to hold an independence vote by September. Austria is set to hold early elections on 15 October after the collapse of its ruling coalition last week. The far-right Freedom Party and Socialists are neck-and-neck in polls. Sebastian Kurz, the new leader of outgoing junior-coalition partner the Austrian People’s Party, is also reportedly willing to hold talks about a coalition with the Freedom Party, a potential grave shock to Austria’s political establishment.
MENA: Rouhani’s landslide comes with uneven path ahead
Sectors: oil and gas; airline manufacturing and servicing; light industry; consumer goods
Key Risks: non-payment; frustration of process; CEND
In Iran on 19 May, President Hassan Rouhani won the presidential election in what state media labelled a landslide with 57 per cent of the vote, compared to 38 per cent gained by his nearest rival, conservative cleric Ibrahim Raisi. In surprise local election results, Reformist lists allied to President Rouhani unseated long-standing conservative control of city councils in Tehran, Mashhad, Karaj and Isfahan. After a vibrant campaign in which Rouhani directly criticised conservative elements of the regime, including the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), he will be under significant pressure to deliver the Reformist vision he portrayed, even as policy-making remains beyond his grasp; the deeply conservative elite led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei controls key institutions and policy-making. Rouhani is likely to have a difficult second term, fraught with economic policy disputes and difficult regional security dynamics.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Kiir launches National Dialogue amid continued fighting in South Sudan
Key Risks: internal conflict; famine
On 22 May, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir launched the much-maligned National Dialogue process, officially aimed at ending the country’s civil war, by declaring a unilateral ceasefire and instructing the prosecutor general to release political prisoners. However, previous ceasefire declarations have rarely been adhered to, and the same is true of similar pledges to release political prisoners. The credibility of the National Dialogue is also undermined by the absence of significant opposition groups, including former first vice president Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – in Opposition (SPLM-IO). The dialogue is therefore unlikely to produce meaningful outcomes or bring an end to violence. Insecurity and famine will continue to generate refugee flows unparallelled in scale across sub-Saharan Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Border areas in northern Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will be further destabilised as the conflict threatens to become a regional crisis.