Americas: Further protests demanding President Giammattei step down expected in Guatemala

Sectors: all

Key Risks: unrest-related violence and disruption; political instability

In Guatemala, escalating anti-government sentiment is expected to fuel further unrest at least over the coming days. On 31 July protests demanding President Alejandro Giammattei’s and Attorney General Consuelo Porras’s resignation were reported for the third consecutive day in the capital Guatemala City. On 29 July thousands demonstrated nationwide against Porras’s controversial decision to dismiss Juan Francisco Sandoval as the head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) on 23 July. Highways were blocked, with protest activity reportedly taking place in at least 90 locations. Sandoval, who fled to neighbouring El Salvador, stated that he was ousted due to his investigations into top government officials. His dismissal prompted the US to temporarily halt some cooperation with the country’s criminal prosecutor amid increasing pressure on Giammattei’s government to step up its fight against graft. Further disruptive unrest is expected.

Asia Pacific: Hundreds including opposition demand PM Muhyiddin’s resignation in Malaysia

Sectors: all

Key Risks: political instability

In Malaysia, hundreds rallied near Kuala Lumpur’s Merdeka Square on 29 July demanding Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s resignation following his postponement of the parliamentary special sitting scheduled for 2 August due to COVID-19 concerns. The latest move came as the opposition and lawmakers within the coalition government warned about the possible constitutional crisis amid increasing fractions between the government and monarchy. On 29 July King Sultan Abdullah accused the government of misleading the Parliament by incorrectly stating the King had given an approval to revoke the state of emergency. Calls for Muhyiddin’s resignation were amplified by a protest staged by over 100 opposition lawmakers, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, on 2 August. Muhyiddin holds an untested razor-thin parliamentary majority while the coalition is largely unstable. Political instability is a major risk in the near-term.

Eurasia: Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relations to develop; Armenian premier facing challenges

Sectors: oil and gas; all

Key Risks: policy uncertainty; political instability; political violence

The presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will meet for a summit on 6 August at Awaza, a Turkmenistani resort on the Caspian Sea. The location is significant: Baku and Ashgabat agreed to jointly develop the Caspian’s Dostluk hydrocarbon deposit in January 2021, thereby ending a decades-long dispute over the matter. While some progress on the project may be announced following the conference, little is expected with regard to the underlying issue of Caspian demarcation or the long-stalled Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline project. Meanwhile, on 2 August Nikol Pashinyan was officially appointed Prime Minister of Armenia after his party’s convincing victory at 20 June snap parliamentary elections. However, Armenian politics remain polarised and border clashes with Azerbaijan, which now occur regularly in the Nakhchivan area as well as on Armenia’s eastern flank, will pose a significant obstacle to Pashinyan’s leadership.

Europe: Bulgaria’s third election looms; French telecoms giant Iliad to go private

Sectors: all   

Key Risks: political instability; policy uncertainty; business

In Bulgaria, government formation talks have continued to slow down as the anti-establishment party There is Such a People (ITN), which won the 11 July snap elections, has so far failed to agree with two other reformist parties, Democratic Bulgaria and Stand.up BG!. Last week, the three parties appeared close to forming a government with the Socialist Party. However, the latest hurdle could once again lead to deadlock and to a third election. Political stability and policy uncertainty are likely for the foreseeable future as the political landscape is expected to remain fragmented. Meanwhile, in France billionaire Xavier Niel plans to launch a tender offer to take private his leading telecoms company Iliad. Niels will reportedly make a EUR3.1bln (US$3.7bln) offer to buy the remaining shares in the company. Further sales are likely as the low valuation of the sector continues.

MENA: Tension after attack on tanker off Oman’s coast; Iran’s President-elect Raisi inaugurated

Sectors: all

Key Risks: civil unrest; political risks; political instability

Punitive retaliatory measures against Iran are likely after a 29 July armed drone attack Israeli-managed oil tanker off the Arabian Sea coast of Oman in which one British, one Romanian crewmen were killed. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett backed by the US and the UK blamed Iran. Washington is considering an ‘appropriate response’. This was the first fatal incident in a string of retaliatory maritime attacks between Israel and Iran. The incident comes before the inauguration of Iran’s President-elect Ibrahim Raisi on 5 August amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and anti-government protests triggered by water shortages. Raisi will take the reins of nuclear talks from outgoing President Hassan Ruhani. His government is likely to adopt a tougher position, potentially jeopardising a prospective deal. A military enforced COVID-19 lockdown is likely which will also serve to prevent protests.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Military deployed after two people killed in pre-election violence in Zambia

Sectors: all

Key Risks: political violence; civil unrest; political instability

In Zambia, on 30 July two supporters of governing party Patriotic Front (PF) were killed in Kanyama, Lusaka, while several other violent armed clashes between the PF and opposition party the United Party for National Development (UPND) were reported in the northern, southern and Muchinga provinces. The military has been deployed to assist police in maintaining security ahead of the 12 August presidential and parliamentary elections and to prevent third party interference in the Electoral Commission during the polls. Despite a ban on campaign rallies due to COVID-19, clashes between rival political party supporters have ensued. In June the Constitutional Court ruled President Edgar Lungu’s candidacy in the elections was legal after the opposition issued two legal challenges to Lungu’s re-election bid.  A tight race between Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema is expected and there is a risk of further violent clashes.