Americas: Colombia’s presidential primary and legislative elections signal likely shift to the left
Key Risks: policy uncertainty; political stability; business and economic risks
In Colombia, leftist Senator and former guerrilla Gustavo Petro overwhelmingly won the primary vote of the left-wing Historic Pact coalition, strengthening the possibility of a historic shift to the left in the 29 May presidential elections. Frontrunner Petro will face civil engineer Federico Gutierrez from the right-wing Team Colombia coalition, Sergio Fajardo from the centrist Hope Coalition bloc and several other candidates from smaller parties in the upcoming vote, which is widely expected to lead to a June runoff. Preliminary results from the legislative vote showed that left-leaning parties made notable gains. A potential Petro victory would significantly raise economic and business risks as Petro has made controversial campaign promises, including a pledge to ban all oil and gas exploration if elected. Uncertainty will remain high over the coming months.
Asia Pacific: Chinese authorities lockdown major cities; Malaysia’s BN wins Johor state election
Key Risks: economic risks and business risks; political stability
In China, authorities imposed citywide lockdown in Shenzhen and Changchuan amid rapidly spreading COVID-19 infections. Only essential businesses such as pharmacies and grocery stores are allowed to operate as usual. A partial lockdown was also announced in Shanghai, leading to travel restrictions in and out of the city and closure of schools. The lockdowns have also halted production at some foreign firms, including Toyota and Apple. Although the current impact on manufacturing is not significant, small businesses will be directly impacted by weak consumption. Meanwhile, in Malaysia the Barisan Nasional (BN) won a supermajority in the Johor state election, securing 40 seats in the 56-seat assembly. The BN’s victory – which followed its win in the Melaka state election – is seen as a barometer for the coalition’s support, leading to speculations over a highly likely snap general election by end-2022.
Eurasia: Serdar Berdymukhamedov expected to win Turkmenistan’s presidential election
Key risks: political stability
In Turkmenistan, presidential elections took place on 12 March. The vote was widely seen as a formal transfer of power from President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov to his son, Serdar Berdymukhamedov. Authorities reported a 97 per cent turnout, although this could not be independently verified. Elections in Turkmenistan are rather a formality. Apart from Serdar, all eight other candidates were known for being loyal to the president. Since its independence in 1991, the country has experienced only one transfer of power – from former president Saparmurat Niyazov to current President Berdymukhamedov – who has headed the country since 2006. On 11 February he announced that he intended to step aside to allow power to be turned over to ‘young leaders.’ Serdar Berdymukhamedov is expected to win. It remains to be seen whether he could bring in political change or if he will continue his father’s policies.
Europe: NATO defence ministers to hold emergency meeting over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Sectors: all; defence
Key Risks: war-on-land
On 16 March NATO defence ministers are scheduled to hold an emergency meeting to discuss Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The meeting will come after at least 35 people were killed and over 130 were injured as a result of a cruise missile attack on Ukraine’s Yaroviv military training facility – which is around 25 km from the border with Poland in Lviv Oblast. Moscow claimed that up to 180 ‘foreign mercenaries’ were killed and that a large foreign weapons cache was destroyed at the base which has previously hosted international NATO drills. Ukrainian officials reportedly denied that, claiming that no foreign nationals were killed in the attack. Moscow also stated that it would treat weapons shipments to Ukraine by NATO countries as military targets. NATO has repeatedly stated that it would not intervene in the war in Ukraine, while bolstering deployments to countries on its eastern flank including Poland, Romania and the Baltic states.
MENA: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps strikes Iraq’s Erbil with at least 12 ballistic missiles
Key Risks: war-on-land; terrorism; political violence; security risks
In Iraq, on 13 March the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) struck Erbil with over 12 ballistic missiles. The IRGC claimed the attack, which hit the vicinity of an unoccupied US consulate close to Erbil International Airport without hitting the consulate itself. No casualties were reported. The IRGC stated that they had attacked secret Israeli facilities in Erbil in retaliation for an Israeli attack which killed two IRGC officers in Syria’s capital on 7 March. Following the killing of the two officers, Tehran promised Jerusalem that it would retaliate. Iran warned Israel of a ‘destructive response’ if it continued its attacks against Iranian targets. On 14 March Iran warned Iraq and regional players – including the US and Israel – that it would not tolerate threats emanating from Iraqi soil. Tensions are extremely heightened and further acts of aggression are possible.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Government negotiations with Chad’s rebel groups experiences failed start
Key Risks: political violence; civil unrest; political instability
In Chad, on 13 March the military government met with armed opposition groups in Qatar for preliminary peace negotiations. The talks are a precursor to a national dialogue process beginning in May that the military junta’s leader, President Mahamat Idriss Deby, insists is necessary before democratic elections can be held in late 2022. However, the talks were suspended when representatives of the Front for Change and Concord (FACT) – the Libya-based armed rebel group responsible for the killing of former president Idriss Deby in April – exited the meeting room in protest following the negotiations’ opening speeches. The early disruption highlights the risk that talks could either fail or at least be delayed. Deby could use the lack of progress to justify delaying a democratic transition – a power grab that would likely spark mass unrest and a major political backlash.