Americas: Democrat Joe Biden leads polls ahead of 3 November US presidential election
Key Risks: political instability; election-related violence; protests
In the US, national polls indicate that Democratic candidate Joe Biden is substantially ahead of President Donald Trump for the 3 November presidential election. Even if national polls are accurate, Trump could still be re-elected due to the electoral college voting system, where almost all states allocated all their votes for the state’s winning candidate regardless of the margin of victory. A handful of swing states including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida and Michigan are expected to decide the election. The 2020 election is on track to have the highest voter turnout in over a century as more than 93 million US citizens have already cast an early vote, representing more than two-thirds of the total 136.5m votes cast in 2016. Irrespective of the results, violent protests, which could intensify should the margin of victory for either candidate be narrow, are likely in major cities nationwide over the coming days.
Asia Pacific: Malaysia’s 2021 budget likely to be voted along bipartisan lines
Key Risks: political instability; economic risks
Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim revealed his terms to back the 2021 budget. Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan along with its ally Democratic Action Party called for an extension to the loan moratorium and wage subsidies until March 2021. The Parti Warisan Sabah also warned that their support was dependent on greater assistance to the eastern Sabah state. Fears that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional coalition would collapse should it not have enough parliamentary support prompted the premier to propose a state of emergency that the King rejected on 25 October. The King instead urged all parties to work together and pass the budget. While Muhyiddin has indicated his openness to work with the opposition, he may not need the latter to pass the budget as his Perikatan Nasional coalition still commands a slim majority.
Eurasia: Elections in Georgia and Moldova highlight risks posed to internal order
Key Risks: political stability; corruption
Recent electoral reforms had their first test at parliamentary elections in Georgia, where the legislature looks set to see extremely broad representation with the introduction of nine new parties. Meanwhile, ruling party Georgian Dream (GD) comfortably retained its mandate to form a cabinet; threats of an opposition boycott due to electoral malpractice are unlikely to escalate. However, there is a risk that continued political exploitation of the judiciary, use of force against protesters and a tightening grip on institutions will contribute to an erosion of civil processes. The immediate risk of political crisis is higher in Moldova, where a 15 November run-off vote will decide whether pro-Russian incumbent Igor Dodon or anti-corruption candidate Maia Sandu will assume the presidency; third-placed candidate Renato Usatii’s endorsement will be crucial. Dodon could challenge a potential Sandu victory, which might trigger politically-fuelled unrest.
Europe: UK sees England-wide lockdown; Portugal likely to reintroduce lockdown
Key Risks: business disruption; economic
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new England-wide lockdown to combat the rising number of COVID-19 infections. Similar measures are in place in the rest of the UK. The restrictions start on 5 November and end on 2 December, although they could be extended and media reports suggest they could resume in January. The lockdown includes the closure of pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail, and a ban on household mixing. The economic effects will be partially offset by an extension of the furlough scheme. There is opposition to the measures within the Conservative Party, although parliament is expected to approve the lockdown on 4 November. Meanwhile, in Portugal the government requested President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa declare a new state of emergency, which could allow the government to impose a new lockdown. Further such measures are expected across Europe.
MENA: Algerian referendum results expected; Lebanon government formation protracts
Key Risks: political instability; economic and political risks
Algerians voted 66.8 per cent in favour of constitutional reforms, with a voter turnout of just 23.7 per cent, the lowest ever. The 1 November referendum was held as concerns about President Abdulmajid Tebbooune’s health escalated after he was confirmed to have COVID-19 and was flown to Germany for treatment. The low turnout is due to a boycott by many anti-government Hirak protesters who disagree that the reforms go far enough to devolve presidential powers. Tebboune’s death might open space for this. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s premier-elect Sa’ad al-Hariri is still to form a ‘small, technocratic government’ amid political infighting over crucial portfolios including the finance, health and public works’ ministries. Hariri was ousted amid protests in October 2019 and is largely unpopular. However, a sweeping COVID-19 lockdown also serves to prevent mass protests.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania braces for post-election unrest; Côte d’Ivoire awaits election results
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability; policy uncertainty
In Tanzania, incumbent President John Magufuli won 84 per cent of the votes in the 28 October presidential elections and secured a majority in parliament amid claims of wide-spread voting irregularities. The main opposition party CHADEMA, which secured 13 per cent of the votes, encouraged protesters to dispute the results and called for a vote rerun. There is a high risk of civil unrest. Meanwhile, voters cast their ballots in Côte d’Ivoire’s tense elections on 31 October where incumbent President Alassane Ouattara sought a controversial third term in office. Opposition party leaders claim Ouattara’s bid is illegal and called for mass civil disobedience. Thousands of Abidjan residents fled the capital fearing a possible repeat of the 2010 post-election violence. The results are expected in the coming days. There is a high risk of political instability.