Americas: Opposition to intensify protests ahead of controversial 30 July vote
Key Risks: civil unrest; violent clashes; deadly violence; political instability
In Venezuela, the opposition announced plans to intensify demonstrations to demand early general elections and to protest against President Nicolas Maduro’s drive to rewrite the constitution. The move followed the 16 July vote on an opposition-led non-binding referendum in which 98 per cent of the over seven million people who voted opposed the proposed constitutional rewrite, urged the military to defend the constitution and backed a call for snap elections. The referendum took place after over three months of protests and only two weeks ahead of the 30 July vote to elect the assembly that would be tasked with writing Venezuela’s new constitution. The opposition plans to launch a ‘Zero Hour’ for a new round of measures to escalate protests and force Maduro to relinquish his plans. Unrest and associated violent repression should be expected at least over the coming two weeks.
Asia-Pacific: Martial law in Mindanao to be extended, but for how long?
Key Risks: terrorism; domestic stability
22 July will mark 60 days since President Rodrigo Duterte implemented martial law across the entire Mindanao region in the southern Philippines and its expiry date. It is highly likely to be extended, as the coalition of Islamists that assaulted the city of Marawi on 23 May continue to hold out against the military. Around 380 Islamists, 90 soldiers and 40 civilians are thought to have been killed up until now in fighting that has embarrassed Duterte and revealed the limits of his strongman rhetoric. While around 60 fighters remain holed up in the city, their more lasting impact may be if they lead the government to try to impose martial law for a substantial period, with some senior politicians even suggesting keeping it in place until 2022. Such a move would surely increase resentment towards the government in Mindanao and prove counterproductive.
Eurasia: Mirziyoyev pushes reforms forward; Turkmenistan risks banking crisis
Key Risks: frustration of process, CEND, CIET, non-payment
Turkmenistan faces a potential banking crisis as the economy remains bogged down by low gas prices while President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov pushes forward with an anti-corruption initiative that is likely an effort to shift blame away from the central authorities. Berdymukhammedov publicly fired the construction minister over alleged misspending and lambasted bank managers, while he also ordered a restructuring of the financial sector that could be a precursor to painful refinancing efforts. A devaluation of the Turkmen manat cannot be ruled out, although this could plunge banks into a deep crisis. In Uzbekistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has grown increasingly confident in publicising changes as pro-reform in recent months and there are indications he will seek to lift exit visas for Uzbek nationals in the coming weeks. Progress will remain slow at best, but the move could bolster positive public sentiment.
Europe: Poland likely to pass controversial judicial reform; second-round Brexit talks begin
Key Risks: political stability, frustration of process
Thousands of protesters demonstrated across Poland on 16 July, a day after the Senate passed a bill allowing the government to appoint judges without judicial oversight. The opposition fiercely opposes the measures, as does the European Commission, which has gone so far as to warn of potential repercussions. The Law and Justice Party (PiS) controls parliament as well as the presidency. President Andrzej Duda is expected to sign the law in the coming days, which will trigger further protests. Meanwhile, the second-round of Brexit negotiations between the EU and United Kingdom begin on 17 July but are likely to be bogged down by ongoing political infighting in the UK’s governing Conservative Party.
MENA: Egypt struggles against multiple streams of terrorism
Sectors: tourism; FDI
Key Risks: terrorism; political violence
Two separate attacks in Egypt on 15 July, one against tourists on beaches in Hurghada and a second against a police patrol in Giza, revealed the full force of the country’s failing fight against terrorism. Although both attacks remain so far unclaimed, they show the separate strains of the terrorist threat from different groups which continue to undermine security. The attack on tourists was likely carried out by a sympathiser of the Islamic State-affiliate, Wilayat Sina (WS), which is currently engaged in a fully-fledged insurgency against the security forces. WS has claimed incidents targeting tourists previously. Targeted attacks in and around Cairo against security forces are politically-motivated, driven by extremist Islamist elements who remain angry at the overthrow of former President Muhammad Morsi. Planning and execution of the attacks appears to be improving, raising the threat of ever greater violence in the country’s largest metropolitan area.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Boko Haram’s deadly campaign intensifies in northeastern Nigeria
Sectors: NGO; humanitarian
Key Risks: suicide bomb attacks; terrorist attacks; kidnap; vigilantism
In recent weeks, Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in Nigeria. The group has recruited child and women suicide bombers to wage a campaign of terror, centring on Borno State capital Maiduguri. Despite claims by President Muhammadu Buhari – who has been in London on extended medical leave for over two months – that the group had been ‘technically defeated’ in December 2016, Boko Haram’s split into factions aligned to Islamic State appointed leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi and former leader Abubakar Shekau appears to have instead resulted in an intensification of their campaign. The British FCO has also warned of a heightened risk of kidnap to foreigners, particularly humanitarian workers, for lucrative ransom payments. In recent weeks, local vigilante groups have clashed with Boko Haram assailants, marking a new stage in the years-long conflict, which could yet escalate into an intractable internal conflict. Attacks can be expected on at least a weekly basis in northeastern Nigeria.