Americas: Tension over new asylum rules in US rises following lifting of Title 42 restrictions
Key Risks: social unrest; policy uncertainty
In the United States (US), on 11 May Title 42 regulations were lifted and new restrictions were implemented amid efforts to prevent migrants from crossing illegally at its southern border with Mexico. The Title 42 restrictions were implemented in March 2020 under former president Donald Trump’s administration – and held over by President Joe Biden – and allowed Washington to quickly turn back over 2.8 million migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19. New restrictions state that migrants who did not first seek protection in a country they travelled through, or first formally apply for asylum in the US online, will be deported. Advocacy groups sued to block the new rules moments before they came into effect, alleging they mirror two other Trump-era policies that federal courts have already rejected. Tension over the new restrictions and the risk of migrant protests at the US-Mexico border will remain high.
Asia Pacific: Pro-democracy parties win big in unprecedented Thai general election results
Key Risks: political instability; policy continuity; coup d’état
In Thailand, on 15 May Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat claimed the right to form the next government following the resounding victory of pro-democracy opposition parties in the 14 May general election. A record voter turnout overwhelmingly delivered a rebuke of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s ruling conservative coalition. Pita announced plans to form a six-party coalition government, including with the Shinawatra-aligned Pheu Thai Party. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the popular mandate for wide-ranging reforms to the military’s role in domestic politics and to the country’s strict lese-majeste laws – long thought impossible – is able to overcome a political system which remains stacked in favour of military-aligned parties. While a pro-democracy coalition government remains the most likely outcome, the reform agenda could still risk incurring the wrath of Thailand’s conservative military-royalist establishment who has historically shown no compunction about overturning election results.
Eurasia: Black Sea Grain Initiative on Ukraine’s grain exports risks expiring on 18 May
Sectors: all; agriculture
Key risks: supply chain disruptions, food shortages
The Black Sea Grain Deal – a UN-brokered agreement between Russia and Ukraine which provides safe passage for Ukraine’s maritime grain shipment – is set to expire on 18 May. Negotiations to renew the deal have been ongoing and Moscow has threatened to withdraw from the deal should western countries fail to remove several obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilisers. On 15 May Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official Olga Trofimtseva stated that Kyiv could not exclude the possibility of the deal ending on 18 May as negotiations with Russia have stalled and no additional talks over its renewal have been scheduled for the coming week. On 9 May Kyiv’s Agriculture Minister claimed that an end to the deal would not result in a catastrophic scenario as Ukraine has alternative ways of exporting its grain. It remains unclear if the deal will be renewed but failure to extend it could nevertheless disrupt global food supply chains.
Europe: Greece to hold legislative elections on 21 May
Key Risks: political instability; policy uncertainty
In Greece, on 21 May citizens will go to polls in legislative elections. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative New Democracy party is narrowly leading in opinion polls over the left-wing Syriza party. The election will take place under a new proportional representation system, which will make it difficult for any party to gain a majority. This might lead to either a coalition government or a runoff scheduled for 2 July. Prime Minister Mitsotakis has previously stated that he would attempt to avoid a coalition government, increasing the chances of another vote. However, even the second vote remains at risk of being inconclusive as the winning party would need to receive at least 38 per cent of the vote to reach a majority. Although leading opinion polls, the position of the New Democracy party is weakened due to the February deadly train crash as well as soaring costs of living.
MENA: Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu to face presidential runoff in Turkey
Key Risks: economic risk; political uncertainty; policy uncertainty; political unrest
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and main opposition leader and head of the National Alliance Kemal Kilicdaroglu will face an election runoff on 28 May. Erdogan led the first round of voting but did not secure a majority, obtaining 49.49 per cent of the votes. Despite pre-election polls giving Kilicdaroglu and his Republican People’s Party (CHP) a lead, Kilicdaroglu achieved 44.92 per cent. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is also set to win a parliamentary majority. Questions surrounding the vote count were levied at the Supreme Election Council (YSK) by both Kilicdaroglu and Sinan Ogan, leader of the ATA Alliance, a block of four nationalist parties (Zafer Party, Adalet Party, Ulkem Party and Turkiye Ittifaki Party). Political tensions are expected to heighten ahead of the second round, which Erdogan is favoured to win.
Sub-Saharan Africa: US accuses South Africa of supplying arms to Russia
Sectors: automotive ; manufacturing ; agriculture
Key Risks: sanctions ; economic ; business
In South Africa, on 11 May the US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety accused Pretoria of covertly supplying arms and ammunition to Moscow between 6 and 8 December 2022. The government denounced the allegations and stated that no evidence had been presented to support the claims and President Cyril Ramaphosa brandished the accusations as distasteful. On 14 May the Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana stated that Pretoria is unlikely to face any sanctions, although the deteriorating relations between Pretoria and Washington threatens the highly lucrative African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade deal – which allows duty-free access of certain items to the US market – valued at more than ZAR50bln (US$2.58bln) annually for Pretoria. Pretoria’s AGOA membership is up for renewal in 2025 and expulsion from the agreement would likely heighten barriers to entry in the US market adding further strain to South Africa’s limping economy.