Americas: Bolivia to face crucial general elections; uncertainty over potential runoff mounts
Key Risks: violent unrest; arson attacks; political instability; policy uncertainty
In Bolivia, general elections – a rerun of the controversial October 2019 vote and postponed twice due to COVID-19 – are scheduled for 18 October. Tensions are on the rise, with uncertainty over whether a presidential runoff will take place on 29 November set to persist as polls showed Luis Arce of the opposition left-wing MAS party with 42.2 per cent of support. Centre-right Carlos Mesa from Comunidad Ciudadana (CC) polled at 33.1 per cent and right-wing Luis Camacho from Creemos at 16.7 per cent. Pressure on centre-right and right-wing candidates to withdraw will increase in the coming days to avoid vote fragmentation, as 40 per cent of the votes and a 10 percentage point difference with the runner-up is needed to win outright. The potential for violent unrest ahead of and particularly following the vote remains elevated.
Asia Pacific: China signs free trade agreement with Cambodia
Key Risks: various
In Cambodia, Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan signed a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) that would cover a wide range of areas including investment, trade, tourism and agriculture, more than 90 per cent of which would be tariff free. The FTA would most likely give Cambodia’s economy a significant boost, especially after the EU rescinded the country’s duty free access to the bloc over human rights concerns. It is expected that the Chinese government will use the FTA to further increase foreign investment and tourism in the country. The announcement came at the heel of several reports that Phnom Penh demolished a US-build facility in the largest port to undergo a newly China-fundly port expansion, a symbolic gesture that highlights Beijing’s expanding influence.
Eurasia: Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire falls through; Tajikistan status quo continues; Kyrgyzstan’s ongoing political crisis
Key Risks: war; political instability; civil unrest
Optimism around a 9 October Russian-brokered ceasefire in the ongoing military clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan looks ill-placed, as both sides resumed missile and artillery strikes shortly after the ceasefire began. Azerbaijan will likely try to press its military advantage to secure recent territorial gains, while domestic and diaspora pressure on the Armenian leadership will lead to continued Armenian retaliation. Tightly controlled presidential elections in Tajikistan resulting in the re-election of incumbent Emomali Rahmon maintained the status quo of political oppression and saw no public opposition. Across the border in Kyrgyzstan, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov looks set to resign amid growing popular discontent following unfair elections. However, newly appointed nationalist Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov is seen as Jeenbekov’s ally, meaning the opposition’s influence is likely to remain minimal should civil unrest be quelled.
Europe: New EU travel restrictions, lockdowns; Bulgarian government faces further pressure
Key Risks: political stability; business disruption; frustration of process
The EU will look to propose common criteria for deciding on travel restrictions across the bloc as member states continue to face a surge in COVID-19 cases. So far the approach to travel restrictions have been imposed on a country by country basis. New proposals could aim to offer greater coordination. On 12 October Germany implemented new greater restrictions for a 10-day period in Berlin and Frankfurt, while the Spanish government imposed a state of alarm in Madrid. Meanwhile, in Bulgaria the government continues to face political pressure as the European Parliament adopted a resolution citing high levels of corruption and general democratic backsliding. Protests against Prime Minister Boyko Borissov could intensify in response as anti-government protests persist.
MENA: Parliamentary consultations begin in Lebanon; rocket attacks on US assets halted in Iraq
Key Risks: political instability; economic and political risks
In Lebanon, consultations for the next prime minister will begin on 15 October amid a political vacuum following Mustafa Adib’s resignation on 26 September over failure to form a government. Former premier Sa’ad al-Hariri is involved. The same sectarian tensions that undermined Adib will likely derail attempts to form a technocratic, non-partisan government amid a crippling economic crisis. 17 October marks the first anniversary of the country’s ongoing anti-government protests. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, protests and violence could rise. In Iraq, Kata’ib Hizbullah and Shi’ah militias operating as the ‘Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission’ announced a halt to rocket attacks on US assets if Baghdad creates a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces. Washington is unlikely to withdraw in the short term and cannot appear to concede to pressure from Iran-backed militias. Attacks on US assets are likely to resume.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria dissolves Special Anti-Robbery Squad following mass protests
Key Risks: civil unrest; crime
The Nigerian government disbanded the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) after thousands of demonstrators protested across the country against police brutality. The SARS, a notorious anti-robbery unit, is accused of grave human rights abuses including unlawful arrests, disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The protests broke out after a man was reportedly killed by police forces in southern Nigeria. In Abuja, further protests erupted and arrests were made after the chief of police announced officers from SARS would be redeployed to other police units. Supporters of the ‘End SARS’ movement demand a complete overhaul of the security apparatus including greater accountability. The police chief publicly assured that the police force would work with human rights groups and civil society organisations to investigate cases of alleged human rights violations. However, government pledges have often failed to lead to tangible change. Continued protest is likely and police violence cannot be ruled out.