Americas: Centrist candidates to face off in Costa Rica’s tight 3 April presidential runoff

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; policy uncertainty; governability

In Costa Rica, former centrist president Jose Maria Figueres of the National Liberation Party (PLN) and former finance minister Rodrigo Chaves will face off in a tight presidential runoff on 3 April. Recent polls suggest that centrist Chaves maintained a slight lead over Figueres, who won the first round on 6 February by an over 10 percentage point lead over Chaves. However, the high number of undecided voters makes the runoff’s result difficult to predict. Both candidates have pledged to fight corruption, a key voter concern alongside rising unemployment. Chaves has attempted to appear as an anti-establishment candidate with his recently created Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD). Nevertheless, Figueres’s scandal-ridden PLN secured most seats in the fragmented unicameral Legislative Assembly in February. No major policy shifts are expected regardless of who takes office on 8 May.

Asia Pacific: Nepalese Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka ink six agreements with Beijing

Sectors: all
Key Risks: business & economic risks

In Nepal, Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka signed six agreements during the state visit by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. The agreements include a number of feasibility studies on infrastructure projects, such as power grid interconnection and a cross-border railway. Others focus on economic and technical cooperation under which Beijing agreed to increase its annual assistance and financing for mutually agreed projects. The state visit by Wang Yi came amid increasing backlash following the Parliament’s ratification of a US-backed US$500m grant that sowed further division in the ruling coalition. Meanwhile, Wang Yi’s visit is seen as part of China’s effort to consolidate its support in the developing world due to Beijing’s position vis-a-vis Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both Beijing and Washington will continue to vie for influence in the country through mostly economic means.

Eurasia: Russia accuses Azerbaijan of ceasefire violation in Nagorno Karabakh

Sectors: all
Key risks: war on land 

On 25 March officials from the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh (NK) stated that three of its servicemen were killed and 15 were injured in a Bayraktar TB-2 drone strike launched by Azeri forces. On 26 March Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Baku of violating the 2020 ceasefire agreement, claiming that Azeri forces had entered the village of Farrukh – located in a zone policed by Russian peacekeepers. Russia’s Defence Ministry also confirmed that Baku had carried out the drone attack on 25 March. Baku denied both claims, describing Moscow’s statement as ‘one-sided’. It was the first time since the end of the hostilities over NK in November 2020 that Moscow has accused one of the parties of ceasefire violation. The development came amid an increasing number of skirmishes between Azeri and ethnic Armenian NK troops. Further similar incidents are likely and the conflict could escalate.

Europe: General elections to take place in Hungary and Serbia on 3 April

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; policy uncertainty; civil unrest

In Hungary, a general election and a referendum on a controversial LGBTQ+ law will take place on 3 April. Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party had intended to centre the campaign on the government’s socially conservative agenda, but this has unavoidably been disrupted by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Polls indicate that a disparate six party opposition alliance which has united under a single candidate for the premiership – Peter Marki-Zay – could pose the most significant challenge to Orban and Fidesz since they secured a ‘super majority’ in 2010. Meanwhile, in Serbia parliamentary and presidential elections will also take place on 3 April. President Aleksandr Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) are widely expected to secure re-election. In both countries, the dominance of pro-government media makes securing victory an uphill challenge for the opposition.

MENA: Huthis announce three-day truce one day after attacking Aramco facilities in Jeddah

Sectors: all; energy
Key Risks: business & economic risks; political violence; cross-border attacks

In Saudi Arabia, on 25 March the Huthi militia attacked the kingdom with ballistic missiles and drones targeting an Aramco petroleum products distribution station in Jeddah, other facilities in Riyadh, water tanks in Dhahran and oil refineries in Jizan, Ras Tanura and Rabigh. Air defences destroyed two explosive-laden drones targeting Najran. A day later, the Huthis announced a three-day truce, but the Saudi-led coalition killed at least seven people during air raids on Sana’a and Hudeidah. The air raids reportedly hit a power plant, a fuel supply station, a social insurance office in Sanaa, oil facilities in Hudeidah and explosive-laden boats in Port Saleef. The Saudi-led coalition gave the Huthis a three-hour deadline to withdraw weapons from Sana’a airport and two ports on the Red Sea. The Huthi attacks come amid negotiations to hold talks with Riyadh. Further Saudi attacks are likely until talks are confirmed.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Tigray forces agree to unilateral truce in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political violence; business risks; war on land

In Ethiopia, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) agreed to the federal government’s ‘cessation of hostilities’ to allow humanitarian aid to the northern Tigray region on 25 March. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government announced a unilateral truce with immediate effect on 24 March. The government also called on the Tigray forces to withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions. The federal government has imposed a de facto aid blockade for several months in which an estimated 40 per cent of people in Tigray have suffered from an extreme lack of food. No aid trucks have successfully made deliveries since mid-December 2021 as supply routes have been severely restricted and aid agencies have been forced to transport supplies by air. The agreement could mark a key turning point in the 17-month civil war.