Americas: Venezuela’s Maduro to increase efforts to lure opposition into legislative vote
Key Risks: strikes; business interruption
In Venezuela, further efforts led by Nicolas Maduro to lure the opposition into participating in the upcoming 6 December legislative elections are expected. Such efforts will likely continue to deepen divisions amongst opposition leaders, most of which have decided to boycott the vote amid widespread fears that vote rigging and fraud would grant Maduro’s ruling PSUV control of the currently opposition-led National Assembly. Henrique Capriles, long-time leader of the opposition Primero Justicia party, recently criticised the opposition’s boycott led by partially recognised interim president Juan Guaido and urged his supporters not to ‘hand in’ the NA to the PSUV. Controversy over the election is expected to increase over the coming weeks. Although a postponement seems unlikely, it cannot be entirely ruled out particularly after Capriles demanded Maduro to do so amid alleged ongoing negotiations over the vote.
Asia Pacific: Indian civilians reportedly kidnapped by Chinese military; Hundreds arrested in Hong Kong
Key Risks: political instability; violent conflict
The Indian army activated a military hotline after reports emerged that five civilians from the Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh state were allegedly kidnapped by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The incident came amid talks between the two country’s defence minister on the sideline of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). There is a precedent for abduction carried out by the PLA. Further similar incidents cannot be ruled out as tension between the two countries remains high. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong SAR, more than 300 people were arrested during rallies against the postpostment of legislative elections. The territory’s chief executive Carrie Lam delayed the 6 September Legislative Council election for a year in July due to a spike of COVID-19 cases. While mass protests have significantly declined since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-government and anti-Beijing sentiment remains strong.
Eurasia: Russia’s Nord Stream 2 could depend on Navalny fate; Donbas truce breaks as Ukrainian soldier killed
Key Risks: contract frustration; war; civil unrest
On 6 September Germany’s foreign minister warned Russia that if it refused to cooperate with an international investigation into the apparent Novichok nerve-agent poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Berlin could support cancelling the Nord Stream 2 project. German Chancellor Angela Merkel previously said the issues should be ‘decoupled’ but opposition has grown within her party. The US still could escalate its own efforts to stop the project. Meanwhile, in Ukraine’s Donbas region the truce that began on 7 August collapsed as Russian-backed separatists killed one Ukrainian soldier over the weekend of 4-6 September. The killing marks the end of weeks of relative calm along the front lines, although this has not been accompanied by political progress on new Russian-Ukrainian talks. Progress in implementing four new disengagement zones could be eroded. Daily fighting risks resuming.
Europe: UK may reverse treaty commitments over Brexit talks; Kosovo and Serbia play friendly
Key Risks: trade disruption; frustration of process
In the UK, on 6 September the government admitted it was preparing legislation that would violate the EU withdrawal agreement Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to in 2019. The UK internal market bill would revise rules that oblige the UK to follow EU state aid rules in Northern Ireland, and a requirement that Northern Irish companies complete an export summary declaration when they send goods to other parts of the UK. Violations of the agreement could cripple trade negotiations. The moves should be seen as an effort to take a hardline in negotiations but the move could critically undermine trust. Two days prior Serbia and Kosovo agreed to work to normalise economic relations in US-mediated talks, but Belgrade still does not recognise Kosovo as a state and the move should primarily be seen as an effort by both governments to cosy up to the US.
MENA: Ankara’s military drills to exacerbate Med spat; Libya rivals meet in Switzerland
Key Risks: political instability; economic and political risks
Ankara alongside forces of the Turkey-backed breakaway region of northern Cyprus, launched an aerial, naval and land based five-day military drill on 7 September. This came amid heightened tensions in disputed territorial Cypriot waters in which Turkey has begun exploration and production activities for gas, accompanied by a large naval presence. The proliferation of ships in the area saw Greek and Turkish frigates collide in mid-August. Although deliberate escalation is not expected, miscalculation and accidental engagement cannot be ruled out. Elsewhere, members of rival east and west based Libyan House of Representatives are meeting in Switzerland for EU, UN-mediated talks. Key decision makers are not joining and previous talks have not led to a resolution. Amid a rejected ceasefire and military build-up around Sirte, a lack of mutual political will and competing interests of international backers may once again see talks fail.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Malian junta launches talks with opposition about return to civilian rule
Key Risks: internal conflict; political violence; political instability
In Mali, on 5 September the leaders of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) began negotiations with opposition groups over a transition to civilian rule in Bamako. The CNSP took control of the country after mutinying soldiers deposed former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on 18 August. Keita left the country to seek medical treatment in the United Arab Emirates after being hospitalised on 1 September. Mali’s neighbours have imposed trade restrictions on the country and France has sought to pressure the CNSP about a return to democracy, though has continued to cooperate with the military on military operations against Islamist and other militants in Mali’s north. The start of the talks indicates the CNSP’s willingness to relinquish power amid mounting sanctions and criticism.