Americas: Electoral tensions to rise in the Dominican Republic as municipal vote suspended

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; civil unrest

In the Dominican Republic, electoral tensions are set to rise following the suspension of the 16 February municipal elections due to a glitch in the electronic voting system. Electoral authorities suspended the vote four hours after voting began. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) head Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman stated that around 50 per cent of electronic ballot machines did not work properly. The JCE plans to launch an investigation into the causes of the incident, which will raise concerns ahead of the upcoming 17 May presidential election. Guzman later stated that the municipal vote would be rescheduled to an “opportune date”. The country’s constitution imposes a 30-day deadline for vote rescheduling. Violent protests were reported in several locations following the suspension, including in Santo Domingo and Santiago. The risk of further tensions and associated unrest will persist over the coming weeks.

Asia-Pacific: New restrictions on movement and activity in Hubei amid COVID-19 outbreak

Sectors: all
Key Risks: economic risks; business risks; travel risks; health risks

On 16 February provincial authorities in Hubei, China announced new travel restrictions on the province’s 58 million residents to contain the spread of COVID-19. Work suspension will be extended to 20 February, residents must stay confined within their residential community or village, and vehicles are banned from roads with the exception of police cars, ambulances and other authorised vehicles. Over a third of the population continue to be affected by at least partial restrictions on movement or activity. In Beijing, leaders decided to postpone the annual Two Sessions meeting of the 13th National People’s Congress, a major political event originally scheduled for 3 March. A change in the diagnosis criteria resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases on 13 February. While the disease continues to spread, with 71,449 cases worldwide, the rate of infection appears to be slowing, particularly outside Hubei.

Eurasia: Further post-election demonstrations lead to detentions in Azerbaijan, anti-China sentiment in Kyrgyzstan rises

Sectors: security
Key Risks: civil unrest; political stability

Riot police detained at least 100 political activists and three opposition leaders in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, ahead of planned protests against the previous week’s parliamentary elections. Six days earlier, smaller demonstrations saw 20 detained. President Ilham Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaijan party won an expected majority in elections which drew criticism from international observers, as have all previous elections in the country. With many of the detained released later in the day, the opposition has called for further demonstrations though these are unlikely to affect regime stability. In Kyrgyzstan between 800 and 1,500 people rallied near At-Bashi in central Naryn region against a local Chinese investment project. Though Bishkek is yet to respond to the protests, they are unlikely to back out of the project. Such protests could precipitate violence between Kyrgyz and Chinese migrants, as seen in August last year.

Europe: Albania and North Macedonia’s hopes of EU accession rise; EU budget spat expected

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability

The European Union is set for a new squabble over budget contributions as European Council President Charles Michel called on richer member states to contribute 1.047 per cent of gross national income. Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and others immediately rejected this saying they would stick to their previously-announced limit of 1 per cent. Poland and Hungary were also angered at the proposal as although they are net beneficiaries of EU budget budgets,  Michel also laid out plans to allow funding for member states to be suspended if they are found to violate EU norms on the rule of law, albeit only with the backing of a qualified majority. Just months after he was the sole EU head of state to veto EU opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, French President Emmanuel Macron signalled he would consider it later this year.

MENA: Turkey and Russia debate the fate of Syria’s Idlib; Hardliners expected to win in Iranian elections

Sectors: all
Key Risks: business disruption; political instability

Turkey is set to hold talks with Russia in Moscow as conflict intensifies in Idlib and regime forces continue their advance in north-west Syria. Ankara has emphasised that the Idlib crisis is separate from the S-400 missile defence deal with Moscow, but as the regime advance, supported by a Russian air campaign results in further Turkish casualties, relations may become strained between Turkey and Russia. Hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are likely to make significant gains in Iran’s parliamentary elections. The result is expected to bring about an ultra-conservative Islamic Consultative Assembly, supportive of Khamenei and the hardline Islamic leadership which has significant influence over the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). This will undermine moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s power and exacerbate tensions with the US.

Sub-Saharan Africa: South Sudan government negotiations deadlocked as Machar rejects President Kiir’s “peace offer”

Sectors: all
Key Risks: internal conflict; political violence; political instability

South Sudan’s former vice president Riek Machar rejected a reduction of the number of states from 32 to 10 unilaterally enacted by President Salva Kiir on 15 January and plans to set up special administrative zones in three disputed regions. The number of states has been a sticking point in negotiations for the formation of a unity government, due by 22 February, with Machar’s supporters accusing Kiir of inflating the number of states and gerrymandering their borders in favour of his Dinka community. Although Machar has long demanded South Sudan revert to its original 10 states, he criticised the creation of the three special administrative regions, likely over concerns this would allow Kiir to maintain exclusive control of oil reserves. In the absence of a breakthrough, negotiations threaten to collapse, raising the risk of renewed conflict.