Americas: Heightened risk of political violence in Ecuador ahead of 20 August snap elections
Key Risks: political violence; policy uncertainty; political stability
In Ecuador, on 20 August voters will choose the next president and lawmakers in snap elections triggered by President Guillermo Lasso’s 17 May dissolution of the National Assembly (NA) by decree amid impeachment proceedings against him. The electoral period has been marred by violence including the 9 August killing of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in Quito and a 10 August shooting attack against NA member candidate Estefany Puente – who was not injured – in 24 de Mayo, Los Rios province. Those voted in will serve until the regularly-scheduled May 2025 elections take place. If none of the eight presidential candidates receive over 50 per cent of the vote or 40 per cent with a 10-point lead, a runoff will be held on 15 October. Former president Rafael Correa’s Citizen’s Revolution party’s candidate Luisa Gonzalez leads the latest polls. The risk of political violence will remain heightened.
Asia Pacific: Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo’s presidential bid gains political momentum
Key Risks: political instability; government instability; policy continuity
In Indonesia, on 13 August Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto gained further support from two political parties within President Joko Widodo’s governing coalition – the Golkar Party and the National Mandate Party (PAN) – for his candidacy in the February 2024 presidential election. With their support, Prabowo’s alliance now controls over 46 per cent of parliamentary seats – well above the nominating threshold and far ahead of his fellow rivals. Prabowo lost to Widodo in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections. However, he has increasingly portrayed himself as a continuity candidate to leverage Widodo’s high approval ratings and bolster his candidacy, particularly against Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo who is the standard bearer for the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) – of whom Widodo is a member. Increased support from the governing coalition will likely aid in those efforts.
Eurasia: Russia’s rouble falls to 16-month low
Key risks: economic
In Russia, on 14 August the rouble fell to a 16-month low, weakening to below RUB101 per US dollar. The currency has lost around 25 per cent of its value in 2023 thus far, primarily due to falling oil and gas revenues and surging military spending. The drop came despite the central bank’s 9 August decision to stop purchasing foreign currency on the domestic market, with analysts agreeing that the move was insufficient to support the depreciating currency. President Vladimir Putin’s advisor Maxim Oreshkin blamed the central bank’s “soft monetary policy” for the drop, while the central bank attributed it to Moscow’s shrinking current account surplus – down 85 per cent year-on-year in H1. The bank indicated that it could further raise interest rates, which are currently at 8.5 per cent. The Kremlin will likely increase pressure on the central bank to stabilise the rouble.
Europe: Poland’s ruling PiS party seeks to shore up support ahead of 15 October general election
Key Risks: political instability; civil unrest
In Poland, on 8 August President Andrzej Duda announced that the country would hold parliamentary elections on 15 October. Polls suggest that the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party narrowly leads over the opposition Civic Platform led by Donald Tusk. The election results will have a major influence on Warsaw’s relations with Brussels, which became increasingly strained under the PiS government over its perceived attempts to weaken the judiciary. On 11 and 13 August PiS announced the first questions in several referendums that the party plans to hold also on 15 October – on the sale of state-owned enterprises and the EU’s migration policy, respectively. The move likely aims to garner support ahead of the election by using these issues to mobilise conservative voters in support of PiS. The lower house of parliament will discuss the organisation of the referendums on 16-17 August.
MENA: Iraq’s former finance minister accused of enabling theft of US$2.5bln
Sectors: economic; business
Key risks: civil unrest; political instability; business disruption
In Iraq, on 12 August former finance minister Ali Allawi stated that there was “no evidence” of him enabling the theft of US$2.5bln through sending 250 fraudulent cheques to shell companies during his tenure. Allawi stepped down from the position of deputy prime minister and as minister of finance in August 2022. He currently resides in London and Baghdad has requested a red notice from Interpol. The theft of US$2.5bln from tax authorities has ignited public anger at a time of a cost of living crisis, poor services and disruption to electricity and water services due to poor infrastructure. It also followed the former governor of Lebanon’s central bank reportedly embezzling US$300m. The cases raised serious concerns regarding the security of transactions, embezzlement of funds and operating with high-level finance officials whilst conducting business in the Middle East.
Sub-Saharan Africa: MINUSMA plans to expedite withdrawal from Ber in Mali
Key Risks: war on land, political instability, terrorism
In Mali, on 13 August the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) peacekeeping mission announced plans to expedite its withdrawal from Ber, Tombouctou region, citing growing insecurity and the potential revival of the Tuareg separatist uprising. The move came after the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) – ethnic Tuaregs who launched a rebellion against the former government in 2012 – accused the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) and Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group of killing two of their members on 7 August during an attack on an undisclosed base in Tombouctou region. On 10 August CMA leaders who signed the 2015 peace deal – which ended the rebellion – withdrew their representatives from Bamako, signalling a worsening of relations between the rebels and the ruling military junta. There is a high risk for rebels to mobilise in the northern region.