Americas: Far-right and far-left to face off on 19 December presidential runoff
Key Risks: political instability; policy uncertainty; governability; civil unrest
In Chile, far-right former congressman Jose Antonio Kast and far-left lawyer Gabriel Boric will face off in a highly polarised presidential runoff on 19 December. Recent polls suggest that Boric maintains a slight lead over Kast, who narrowly won the first round on 21 November. However, the high number of undecided voters makes the runoff’s result uncertain and difficult to predict. Kast is known for his anti-immigration rhetoric and a hard line against crime, while Boric has promised to scrap the country’s private pension system, increase social services and raise taxes on the wealthy. The incoming administration, set to take office in March, will oversee the ongoing constitutional reform process, with the Constituent Assembly expected to present a new constitution draft for approval in H1 2022. Irrespective of the final result, instability and unrest risks will remain high for the foreseeable future.
Asia Pacific: Hong Kong to elect LegCo members as Taiwan votes on contentious issues
Key Risks: political instability
In Hong Kong, the much-delayed Legislative Council (LegCo) election is scheduled to take place on 19 December. Low voter turnout is expected following Beijing’s March amendment to the eligibility of LegCo candidates in ensuring that only ‘patriotic’ candidates can run in the election. A pro-Beijing vetting panel was also introduced to select candidates. Major pro-democracy groups did not field candidates following the overhaul, while most of the city’s opposition figures were barred from running. Elsewhere in Asia, the Taiwanese populace is set to vote on four contentious referendums on 18 December in a major test for President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration. With nearly 20 million eligible voters, each of the referendums would pass with at least a quarter of assenters. While the issues reflect public disagreement with President Tsai, the risks of civil unrest and political instability are low.
Eurasia: Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian PM Pashninyan to hold talks on 15 December
Key risks: war on land
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashninyan are set to hold talks in Brussels on 15 December on the margins of the European Union’s (EU) Eastern Partnership summit. The meeting, hosted by President of the European Council Charles Michel, aims at discussing the regional situation and ways of overcoming tensions over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. The meeting comes amid another increase of tensions on the Azerbaijani-Armenian borders after the two parties exchanged fire for three consecutive days from 8 to 10 December. Pashninyan and Aliyev held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 26 November in Sochi, where the three parties discussed the implementation of the ceasefire agreement reached on 9 November 2020. The upcoming talks are unlikely to bring a significant breakthrough in peace deal negotiations or to deter further incidents.
Europe: European Union sanctions Russian-based PMC Wagner Group
Key Risks: sanctions
On 13 December the European Union (EU) formally approved sanctions against Russia-based private military company (PMC) Wagner Group for alleged human rights abuses in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Ukraine. In addition to the Wagner Group, the sanctions targeted three related entities, eight individuals working with the group and included a ban on travel to the EU and a freeze on any assets held inside the bloc. France has been the driving force behind the sanctions due to the group’s recent activities in Africa, notably in Mali. Some western capitals regard the Wagner Group, which is active in several conflicts internationally, as a proxy force for the Russian Ministry of Defense, an allegation which the Kremlin has repeatedly denied. The sanctions will add to existing EU-Russia tensions. Questions remain as to whether Moscow will retaliate.
MENA: Rising uncertainty around imminent Libyan presidential elections
Key Risks: political instability; policy uncertainty; civil unrest
In Libya, the timeframe for presidential elections ostensibly scheduled for 24 December appears increasingly uncertain following the High State Council’s (HSC) call on 8 December to postpone the vote to February 2022 for it to be held in conjunction with already-delayed parliamentary polls. This comes amid growing disagreements over electoral procedures, particularly regarding the eligibility of controversial presidential candidates such as Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and warlord Khalifa Haftar. This was compounded by the High National Elections Commission’s (HNEC) decision on 11 December to delay the publication of the candidates’ list until legal disputes related to eligibility and the voting schedule are resolved. Less than two weeks before the election, the risk of a last-minute postponement has been significantly heightened. A postponement would risk a resumption of civil unrest between the country’s rival factions and potentially jeopardise the hard-fought peace process.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Uncertainty as opposition leader announces candidacy in Kenya’s elections
Key Risks: political instability; civil unrest; policy uncertainty
In Kenya, on 10 December opposition leader Raila Odinga announced his candidacy in the August 2022 presidential elections following speculation that he had struck an agreement with President Uhuru Kenyatta – who cannot seek a third term. It is unclear if Odinga will run independently or in partnership with the ruling Jubilee Party. Odinga will face strong competition from Deputy President William Ruto, who holds a double-digit polling lead. However, Odinga’s support could increase should he receive Kenyatta’s public backing. Whilst long-term regulatory implications of an Odinga versus a Ruto presidency are uncertain, the election presents significant risks. Grievance-based ethnic mobilisation remains a key electoral risk and tensions will likely increase as campaigning begins. The risk of unrest will grow over the coming months and election-related violence, the likes of which saw thousands killed in 2007, cannot be ruled out.