Ones to Watch, 18 March 2019

Americas: Guyana to miss snap election deadline, constitutional crisis looms

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; governability

In Guyana, the 21 March deadline to hold snap elections is fast approaching. The vote will not take place, heightening the risk of a constitutional crisis. On 21 December 2018 opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo and his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) succeeded in passing an unprecedented no-confidence vote against President David Granger, accusing his government of mismanaging oil resources. On 31 January the Supreme Court declared the no-confidence motion legal, reiterating the 90-day deadline for holding elections unless a parliamentary majority voted for an extension, a move Jagdeo opposes. On 5 February the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) stated that it was unable to conduct credible elections by March and suggested a later date in July. Political uncertainty is expected to continue to raise concerns over pending legislation to regulate the oil sector and future oil production, expected to begin in 2020.

Asia-Pacific: Philippines withdraws from the ICC, war on drugs rages on

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political violence

On 17 March the Philippines officially withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The departure took effect a year after President Rodrigo Duterte submitted notice of its exit and comes amid a preliminary ICC examination over mass extrajudicial killings as part of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. The government has threatened to arrest any ICC prosecutor that sets foot on Filipino territory. Human rights watchdogs estimate that over 20,000 people have been killed in anti-drug operations since 2016. On 14 March Duterte released a list of 46 politicians – mostly political opponents – he claimed are involved in the narcotics industry. The war on drugs is likely being used as a political tool to crack down on the opposition. The withdrawal from the ICC will have damaging consequences for human rights protections and the war on drugs will see an increase in violence.

Eurasia: Kyrgyz-Tajik tensions risk renewed protests

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest

Two days of violent clashes over the last week between Kyrgyz and Tajik residents of the Tajik exclave of Vorukh and surrounding Kyrgyz territory left three dead and could resume over the coming week. Independent media reported that Kyrgyz authorities had blocked the Red Cross and other NGOs from accessing the region over the weekend of 15-17 March. Tajikistan has accused Kyrgyz authorities of illegally constructing a road on their territory in the area, which Kyrgyzstan has denied. There is significant precedent for disputes over exclaves in central Asia’s densely populated Fergana Valley to lead to civil unrest, though so far such disputes have not led to interstate conflict, though there have previously been low-level clashes between border guards.

Europe: France, Serbia, and Spain see notable protests that may affect elections

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; civil unrest

France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ protests returned on 16 March with renewed violence amid widespread unrest in many locations, but particularly in central Paris’s Champs Elysees and the surrounding area where significant arson and looting occured. Police clashed with demonstrators and arrested around 240 people. The protests may escalate around the upcoming 26 May European elections. 16 March also saw notable protests in the capitals of Spain and Serbia, leading to an increased likelihood in the latter that the government will crack down on future such demonstrations. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic may call snap elections to seek a new mandate. Spain’s protests, which center on the Catalan independence issue, could affect its 28 April elections, particularly as they have fuelled the rise of the far-right Vox party. Catalan parties could also end up playing a key role in the balance of power in the legislature after the vote.

MENA : Shape of new cabinet expected in Algeria, protests and strikes continue

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; confiscation

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Algeria on 15 March in the country’s largest protests yet. New Prime Minister Nuraddin Baduwi is expected to announce a new government later this week as officials from across the political spectrum, including from the banned Islamic Salvation Front and the lead opposition Adala Party have been gathering for talks. Algerians have demonstrated and striked continuously for 25 days, demanding an immediate end to the 20-year rule of President Abdulaziz Bouteflika. Strikes at SOE Sonelgaz, who declared solidarity with the protests have reduced gas exports to the EU. This may continue for longer in context of wider protests should the new cabinet not demonstrate a sufficient break from the previous regime. Strikes at Sonatrach, Algeria’s state oil company were witnessed, although the company has not publically sided with the cause. Protests may continue until Bouteflika resigns with total cabinet reform.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Kabila alliance’s election victory in the Democratic Republic of Congo could spark further unrest

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; civil unrest

Former president Joseph Kabila’s FCC multi-party alliance won a two-thirds majority in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s senatorial elections on 15 March. The CACH alliance of Kabila’s successor Felix Tshisekedi, whose surprise election in December 2018 raised suspicion of a complot, failed to win any seats for Kinshasa. The FCC’s victory comes after it secured 70 per cent of seats in the lower house of parliament in December, confirming its role as the DRC’s leading political force, further undermining Tshisekedi’s ability to govern independently. As former president, Kabila will occupy an honorary seat in the senate. The FCC and CACH alliances have agreed to form a coalition, giving Kabila significant influence over the yet-to-be-appointed new government composition. At least one police officer was killed when protests erupted across the country following CACH’s defeat. Kabila’s continued political pre-eminence could prompt further sporadic violent unrest.