Americas: Ecuador’s President Lasso dissolves National Assembly; political risks on the rise

Sectors: all
Key Risks: policy uncertainty; political instability

In Ecuador, on 17 May conservative President Guillermo Lasso issued a decree dissolving the unicameral National Assembly amid impeachment proceedings against him for alleged embezzlement in connection with a contract at state-owned oil transportation company Flopec. It appeared likely that the required two thirds of lawmakers would have backed Lasso’s impeachment. The move – which prompted backlash from opposition lawmakers and indigenous and leftist groups – means that presidential and legislative elections will be brought forward, with Lasso remaining in office and ruling by decree until they are held. Those elected in the early elections would serve out Lasso’s term until the 2025 elections take place. The National Electoral Council stated that the snap elections – in which Lasso has announced he will not run – could take place on 20 August. Policy uncertainty and the risk of further political instability will remain heightened.

Asia Pacific: Opposition CNRT leads in feud-riven Timorese parliamentary election

Sectors: all; oil and gas
Key Risks: political instability; policy continuity; economic risks

In Timor-Leste, preliminary results indicated that the opposition National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party maintained a strong lead in the 21 May parliamentary election. The highly contested vote relitigated the fractious relationship and long-standing political feud between independence stalwarts Xanana Gusmao from the CNRT and Mari Alkatiri from the ruling Revolutionary Front for an Independent Timor-Leste (Fretilin). The election came at a crucial time, as the oil-dependent country is expected to reach its long-stated goal of fully joining the ASEAN regional bloc and aims to develop the Greater Sunrise gas fields. Despite the CNRT’s presumed victory and Gusmao’s expected return to the premiership, a coalition will likely be needed to form a government. While the risk of violence seen in previous election cycles have largely subsided, political instability risks will remain elevated in the coming weeks.

Eurasia: Armenia’s Prime Minister Pashinyan and Azerbaija’s President Aliyev to meet in Moscow 

Sectors: all
Key risks: war on land 

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev are expected to meet in Moscow on 25 May for trilateral talks hosted by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The meeting will follow 19 May negotiations between Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The Kremlin’s increased diplomatic efforts came amid the EU’s recent diplomatic push to mediate a peace agreement. Pashynian and Aliyev met in Brussels on 14 May and another Western-organised meeting is scheduled for 1 June in Moldova. Although both parties have claimed progress on a draft peace agreement, considerable differences persist – particularly over security guarantees and the rights for the Armenian population living in the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region. The diplomatic push from both Moscow and Brussels is expected to continue.

Europe: Protests after mass shootings set to continue in Serbia

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability

In Serbia, on 19 May tens of thousands of people rallied against gun violence in the capital Belgrade, following similar rallies that drew equally large crowds on 8 and 12 May. The rallies came after nine people were killed on 3 May by an armed 13-year-old boy in a mass school shooting in Belgrade. On 4 May eight people were killed in another mass shooting in Dubona. The shootings prompted authorities to tighten gun restrictions and begin confiscating illegal weapons. Protesters and opposition parties accused the government of allowing a culture of violence to fester. They called for increased security, a ban on violent TV content and the resignation of key officials including President Alexander Vucic. Vucic called for his supporters to rally on 26 May and suggested the possibility of calling snap parliamentary elections. Further protests and counter-protests are likely in the coming weeks.

MENA: Syria’s President Assad welcomed at Arab League summit in Jeddah

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political risk; policy continuity

In Saudi Arabia, on 19 May Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was welcomed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and attended the Arab League summit in Jeddah for the first time in 11 years. The move was condemned by Syrian opposition groups. Regional rapprochement and resumption of diplomatic relations between Damascus and some of its Arab neighbours illustrates a step-change by regional powers, expedited by the fact that US attention has increasingly focused elsewhere. The UAE kickstarted resumption of relations with the Levantine state in 2018. Riyadh has more recently called for dialogue to end the Syrian Civil War. Despite initially backing armed opposition groups, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan stated that a consensus was building among Arab states to find a new approach involving negotiations to address the Syrian humanitarian crisis. With the US is unlikely to amend its policy towards Assad, this regional initiative is expected to face serious challenges.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Warring parties in Sudan agree to a 22-29 May ceasefire

Sectors: NGOs
Key Risks: war on land

In Sudan, on 20 May representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) signed a 22-29 May ceasefire agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. The agreement was negotiated to allow humanitarian agencies to provide medical and food aid to conflict-ridden areas. The ceasefire is scheduled to come into effect at 21:45 local time with an internationally supported monitoring mechanism. The belligerents agreed to refrain from using the deal to reorganise troops and resources to gain an advantage on the battlefield. All previous ceasefires since the conflict started on 15 April have failed to hold. However, this is the first time both parties have signed a written agreement. It remains to be seen whether the RSF and SAF leaders can enforce a ceasefire on the ground.