Ones to Watch, 25 June 2018

Americas: Mexico set to elect leftist president amid record-high violence

Sectors: all
Key Risks: policy continuity; targeted political violence; contract alteration

In Mexico, general elections are scheduled to take place on 1 July. Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) of the MORENA party has consistently been the frontrunner in the polls and is expected to become Mexico’s next president. According to a poll released on 24 June, 37.7 per cent of voters support AMLO, with 20 per cent backing his closest rival, Ricardo Anaya, who is heading the centre-right PAN party and running on the right-left Frente Ciudadano por Mexico coalition ticket also backed by the centre-left PRD. An AMLO presidency is likely to lead to increased political risks, raising uncertainty over the future of the energy reform and the already strained bilateral relationship with the United States. At least 120 current and would-be officials have been killed ahead of the vote in the most violent campaign in recent history. Further targeted attacks will remain likely.

Asia-Pacific: Political violence risk increases ahead of 27 June elections in Indonesia

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political violence

On 27 June over 150 million Indonesians will vote in regional elections known as Pilkada. The elections take place less than a year before national elections in 2019 and months before the deadline for parties to name presidential candidates. While the Pilkada will only have a limited impact on the outcome of national elections next year, the political violence risk will be particularly elevated during this period. The risk of protests and clashes linked to communal tensions and dissatisfaction with local leaders will increase, particularly in troubled provinces such as Papua and West Papua where a separatist insurgency is likely to exacerbate existing grievances. Moreover, the Surabaya bombings in May have highlighted the risk of a terrorist attack by militants opposing the secular government. The political violence risk will remain high ahead of the Pilkada and in the weeks following the election results.

Eurasia: Uzbekistan risks first crisis under Mirziyoyev; Putin-Trump summit reportedly in works

Sectors:  all
Key Risks: war; political stability; terrorism

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US Counterpart Donald Trump could hold a bilateral summit in Vienna as soon as 15 July, according to reports in Austrian media. The US and Russian energy ministers are due to meet while Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton is also travelling to Russia this week. While numerous tensions exist between the two countries and Trump’s administration has continued to ratchet up the sanctions regime, the two leaders could seek to reach sweeping agreements, although Trump will have to contend with a potentially major backlash in the US. Only weeks prior, Trump welcomed Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the first such bilateral summit in 15 years. Tashkent’s efforts to reform its economy and establish ties with the West and elsewhere face their first significant challenge. On 16 June an Uzbek-born US national was arrested by Uzbekistan’s heavy-handed security service on terrorism charges not seen as credible and though he has since been released, he remains under investigation. Fallout from the case cannot be ruled out.

Europe: Romania and Moldova protest; EU migration negotiations

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability

European Union leaders began efforts to hash out a new agreement on migration and the resettling of refugees across the block on 24 June, although an agreement appears some way away, particularly with the Italian government taking a hardline position. The talks could see a no-confidence vote in Germany against Chancellor Angela Merkel and will significantly impact the popularity and sustainability of other governments in the block. Romania’s ongoing protests against the governing Social Democrats and against corruption continued into their sixth day on 25 June and could soon turn to crisis after a court ruling that the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor must resign on the government’s orders. In neighbouring Moldova, similar protests rooted in anti-corruption concerns are also escalating. Protesters have moved to try to occupy an area outside parliament after a court ruled the Chisinau mayor election result invalid.

MENA: Erdogan victorious in contentious and critical Turkish elections

Sectors: all
Key Risks: economic policy uncertainty

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged victorious from Turkey’s 24 June elections, securing reelection and ensuring a change that increases the power of the president. Erdogan’s main challenger, Muharrem Ince, won around 31 per cent of the vote. The AKP won only 42 per cent of the vote in parliamentary elections, far less than the near 50 per cent it secured in November 2015, but its allies, ultra nationalist Nationalist Movement party (MHP), won over 11 per cent of the vote – enough for the pro-government parties to hold an absolute majority. While there are some accusations of result manipulation, the opposition has conceded defeat. The results will concentrate further power in Erdogan’s hands. While he has the political space to push through economic measures to strengthen the weakening economy, there is a risk that Erdogan’s non-orthodox economic beliefs could threaten the country’s economic future.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Zimbabwe election rally blast

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; political violence

On 24 June an explosion rocked an election rally in Bulawayo attended by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in an apparent assassination attempt on Zimbabwe’s leader. 49 people were injured, including leading figures of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Mnangagwa, who escaped unhurt, and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa affirmed that Zimbabwe’s crucial presidential vote, the first following the ouster of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, will go ahead as planned on 30 July. Nonetheless, the blast marks a turning point in a campaign that had thus far remained largely peaceful. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but there are many potential suspects. Tensions between ZANU-PF and the opposition have recently intensified amid accusations of intimidation and attempted voter list manipulation by the government, underscored by a damning Human Rights Watch report released on 7 June. Moreover, Mnangagwa has failed to heal divisions between his own faction and supporters of his predecessor Mugabe, who were sidelined by November’s de-facto coup. Others speculate it was an inside job to gain sympathy votes. Whoever is behind the blast, there are fears the incident will serve as an excuse for further repression and a harbinger for large-scale violence ahead of the vote.