Americas: Chile to hold delayed Constituent Assembly and municipal elections on 15-16 May
Key Risks: political instability; protests; political violence; policy uncertainty
In Chile, long-awaited Constituent Assembly (CA) and municipal elections are scheduled to take place on 16-17 May. Both votes, originally scheduled for early April, were postponed due to a surge in COVID-19 cases which prompted tighter restrictions, including a 30-day border closure and a longer nationwide nightly curfew. Chileans will elect the CA’s 155 members who will be in charge of drafting a new constitution. The CA will debate for nine months, which can be extended once by another three, meaning that the new constitution will not be put down for approval at least until the end of Q1 2022. Furthermore, a general election is scheduled for 21 November 2021. The constitutional and electoral processes, overlaid with the risk of unrest and efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, could face further delays and will continue to fuel policy uncertainty.
Asia Pacific: Myanmar’s military declares NUG and CRPH terror groups; 15 projected approved
Key Risks: political instability; business risks
In Myanmar, on 8 May the military designated the newly formed National Unity Government (NUG) and its affiliated group Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) as ‘terrorist’ organisations as struggles for political authority continued to intensify. The designation, which would further complicate NUG’s attempt to win international recognition, implies that any groups or individuals, including journalists, could be charged under the counter-terrorism law should they come into contact with members of the NUG and CRPH. Separately, the military-backed Myanmar Investment Commission approved 15 projects including a US$2.6bln liquified natural gas (LNG) project in the Irrawaddy Delta in an attempt to revive the economy, which has been completely paralysed since the 1 February coup. The approval of the allegedly China-backed LNG project could potentially exacerbate already-high anti-China sentiment, generating additional risks for Chinese assets and nationals in the country.
Eurasia: Eid ceasefire in Afghanistan; Nord Stream 2 sanctions report; Georgian political developments
Key Risks: political violence; sanctions; political instability; civil unrest
In Afghanistan, Taliban representatives announced a three-day ceasefire to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday. While violence may dip temporarily, the move comes amid worsening fighting nationwide as international forces withdraw from the country. Meanwhile, the US State Department must submit a report on individuals and entities liable to sanctions for involvement in the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to Congress by 16 May. However, the last report – issued in February – saw just one pipelaying ship sanctioned. With construction nearing completion, further sanctions seem unlikely. Also on 16 May, Levan Vasadze will hold a rally in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi to mark his entering into politics. Vasadze, a vocal and outspoken activist, may be a force to be reckoned with given his dynamism and novelty on the stagnant political scene.
Europe: ECHR ruling against Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal; Bulgaria’s former PM faces probe
Key Risks: frustration of process; political stability
On 7 May the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a Polish turf producer did not receive a fair hearing because the government had illegally appointed a judge to the Constitutional Tribunal that reviewed the case. One of the judges presiding over the case in 2017 was appointed by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) despite the seat having already been filled by the previous parliament. The result could set a significant precedent as it could see other constitutional court verdicts challenged. In Bulgaria, on 9 May a criminal probe was launched into claims that former prime minister Boyko Borissov was involved in money extortion from a businessman. Borissov held power for a decade as leader of the GERB party, which lost power in the April elections. Further allegations against Borissov are expected ahead of July elections. He is highly unlikely to return to a position of power within the party.
MENA: US extends troop mandate in Iraq for a year; clashes to escalate in Israel’s East Jerusalem
Key Risks: political risks; political instability; economic risks
US President Joe Biden quietly extended a 2003 mandate to keep US troops in Iraq for one year from 22 May 2021. Attacks by Shi’ah militia against infrastructure hosting US troops will escalate as the move refutes the former US administration’s assertions that US troop drawdown from Iraq would occur within the year from September 2020. Attacks against ‘Ayn al-Assad Airbase, Erbil Airbase, al-Balad Airbase, the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport should be expected to escalate. Despite strict COVID-19 lockdowns, protests could also escalate in southern provinces over the assassination of prominent government critic Ihab Jawad Al-Wazni. In Israel, clashes will continue over the potential eviction of Palestinians by Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem’s Shaikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The matter is also exacerbating clashes at al-Aqsa mosque between Palestinians, Israeli police and right-wing groups. With over 300 casualties already, further clashes are expected.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Police officers killed in targeted attacks near Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Key Risks: political violence
In Nigeria, seven police officers were killed when unidentified gunmen launched a series of attacks on police positions outside Port Harcourt in the oil-rich Rivers state on 7 May. The gunmen killed two police officers at Choba Bridge and five others in nearby Rumuji and Elimgbu. Local authorities blamed the attacks on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a largely peaceful separatist movement, and its alleged newly formed military wing known as the Eastern Security Network (ESN). However, the involvement of IPOB and its ties to the ESN remain uncertain. The incidents came amid a spike in attacks targeting police officers in several south-eastern states in recent weeks, prompting a nightly curfew in certain areas. There is a high risk of further attacks as President Muhammadu Buhari faces increasing pressure to tackle rampant insecurity in the country.