Americas: Further disruptive unrest likely in Costa Rica despite blockades being lifted

Sectors: all
Key Risks: cargo transport disruption; policy uncertainty; civil unrest

In Costa Rica, disruptive unrest will remain a high risk over the coming days despite the National Rescue Movement (MRN)’s decision on 15 October to suspend 16-days long road blockades which significantly affected cargo transport, including with neighbouring Panama and Nicaragua. The MRN – the main protest movement leading nationwide anti-IMF demonstrations and road blockades since 30 September – suspended the disruptive action until 21 October to grant President Carlos Alvarado the ‘opportunity’ to accept a dialogue with its representatives. The decision to temporarily lift the blockades came as the Prosecutor’s office summoned 10 MRN leaders to be investigated for several crimes including illicit association and obstruction of public services. A multisectoral dialogue called by Alvarado and Legislative Assembly President Eduardo Cruickshank meant to start on 17 October has failed to begin, further raising the risk of fresh protests.

Asia Pacific: China passes export law while economy expands by 4.9 per cent in Q3

Sectors: various
Key Risks: business risk; frustration of process

On 19 October the FT reported that China’s economy expanded by 4.9 per cent in Q3 year-on-year, owing to rising consumption and external demand. Growth in Q3 was better than the 3.2 per cent posted in Q2 and was largely induced by a state-backed industrial boom led by production of construction equipment and industrial rebootics. Additionally, trade in dollar terms also improved as key trade partners began to slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, with exports rising to US$713bln. Meanwhile, on 17 October, the National People’s Congress passed a law that would restrict the export of sensitive technology amid escalating tensions with the US. The new law, which comes into force on 1 December, is likely to provide a framework for Beijing to retaliate US restrictions on major Chinese tech companies.

Eurasia: Belarus ‘people’s ultimatum’ incoming; Kyrgyz government forms, launches probe

Sectors: various
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability

In Belarus, detentions intensified over the past week with almost 12,000 protesters being arrested since President Alexander Lukashenko’s fraudulent re-election. An orchestrated roundtable meeting with imprisoned opposition figures was swiftly followed by violent crackdowns and the threat to use live ammunition against protesters. The opposition Coordination Council served Lukashenko with an ultimatum to leave office by 25 October or face mass strikes. As long as his uneasy alliance with Moscow persists – which largely depends on the Kremlin finding a suitable successor – the Lukashenko will not depart voluntarily. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan ended its state of emergency as lawmakers voted to transfer presidential powers to new PM Sadyr Japarov ahead of a January rerun of elections. One of his first moves was to initiate an investigation into the country’s customs agency, which has been accused of massive corruption.

Europe: UK PM threatens to call off EU trade talks; North Cyprus election result to embolden Ankara

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; business disruption; frustration of process

In the UK, on 16 October Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to call off future trade talks with the EU over the UK’s departure from the EU, citing the need for a change of approach in negotiations, effectively placing responsibility on Brussels for the collapse in talks. Johnson said the UK’s departure would be under an “Australian-style” arrangement – effectively a no-deal scenario. Johnson’s statement is likely hyperbole in an attempt to apply pressure to Brussels. Meanwhile, in the Turkey-backed breakaway republic of North Cyprus, Ersin Tartar, the right wing pro-Turkey nationalist, won the presidential vote with 52 per cent beating out his opponent, incumbent President Mustafa Acinci. Tartar then received the backing of presidential candidate Tufan Erhurman who came third in the first round. Tartar’s win may raise tensions with Nicosia and encourage Ankara in its drilling for gas in disputed Cypriot waters.

MENA: Delayed consultations to begin in Lebanon; parliamentary elections in Egypt

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; economic and political risks

In Lebanon, President Michel Aoun is due to start another round of delayed consultations on 22 October to pick a premier to form a government. In the running is former prime minister Sa’ad al-Hariri, who was ousted by widespread mass anti-government protests which began on 17 October 2019. In the year since, the country has witnessed the resignation of two governments – one amid protests, the other over the catastrophic 4 August Beirut Port blast – and the resignation of a third premier-designate over political blockages. Hariri’s bid for premier is likely to stoke further public ire. Egypt is holding parliamentary elections on 25 October, the first of two phases to elect the House of Representatives (HoR) and the first since 2015. The elections will see President Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi consolidate his grip on the already compromised government. Protests could ensue.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Polls close in Guinea’s controversial presidential election; risk of civil unrest

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability; political uncertainty

Voters cast their ballots in Guinea’s tense presidential election. President Alpha Conde, who has been in power since 2010, is seeking re-election for a third term after a controversial constitutional referendum in March allowed him to bypass a two-term limit. His main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo has accused Conde of manipulating the electoral environment in his favour. Since Conde announced his bid for a third term in October 2019, dozens of demonstrators have been killed in clashes with security forces during nationwide anti-Conde protests. While there were no immediate reports of violence during polling, there remains a high risk of clashes and potential military intervention in the coming days as polarisation along ethnic lines intensifies. Results are expected within a week, with a potential run-off scheduled for 24 November if neither candidate receives 50 per cent of the vote.