Americas: Preliminary presidential runoff result awaits certification amid tension in Guatemala
Key Risks: political stability; civil unrest
In Guatemala, on 20 August voters chose Bernardo Arevalo from the leftist Seed Movement (MS) party as the country’s next president. Arevalo secured 58 per cent of the votes versus former first lady Sandra Torres from the centre-left UNE party, who won 37 per cent. Torres has not yet publicly accepted the preliminary result, which still needs to be certified. The electoral process has raised international concern given the controversial barring of candidates prior to the 25 June first round vote, delays in announcing the official results after the first round and MS’s suspension. Although outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei vowed to ensure an orderly transition of power on 14 January 2024, delays in certifying the result and further judicial intervention cannot be ruled out. If the result is challenged, the risk of widespread disruptive unrest with the potential to turn violent will increase.
Asia Pacific: Thailand’s PTP unveils broad 11-party coalition, government formation expected
Key Risks: political instability; political impasse; policy continuity; civil unrest
In Thailand, on 21 August the populist Pheu Thai Party (PTP) unveiled an 11-party coalition which included the military-aligned Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and the United Thai Nation Party (UTN). The PTP also affirmed property tycoon Srettha Thavisin as its prime ministerial candidate, who is now widely expected to secure the necessary parliamentary support to form government in the coming days. The announcement marked a striking turn of events as the PPRP and UTN are respectively synonymous with outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – leaders of the 2014 military coup which toppled the previous PTP government. Bangkok has been under their caretaker government since the 14 May general election and the ensuing political impasse – which saw the election winner Move Forward Party (MFP) fail to form a pro-democracy coalition government. Civil unrest risks are likely to persist.
Eurasia: Ukraine close to finalising deal to insure Black Sea grain shipping
Sectors: all; shipping; grain
Key risks: war at sea; war on land; commercial disruptions
In Ukraine, on 21 August the government was reportedly close to finalising a deal between relevant ministries, local groups and international insurers – including Lloyd’s of London – for a new scheme to insure shipping from its Black Sea Ports – which have been repeatedly targeted by Russian forces since Moscow abrogated the Black Sea Grain Initiative on 17 July. The move came after Kyiv’s Navy announced on 10 August a temporary corridor for commercial vessels seeking to travel to and from the country’s ports, warning that the risk of Russian attacks remained high. Local officials reported that the insurance scheme could see between five and 30 ships travel from high-risk ports in Odesa Oblast as soon as September. However, uncertainty persists over the viability of government-backed guarantees that are seen as essential to any such programme.
Europe: Spanish PM Sanchez seeks investiture vote for new government after 23 July elections
Key Risks: political instability
In Spain, on 16 August Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that he would seek an investiture vote in the lower house of parliament to form a new Socialist-led government after the house reconvened on 17 August. Opposition centre-right People’s Party (PP) and Sanchez’s ruling Socialists (PSOE) came first and second in the 23 July elections, respectively, but failed to reach the 176 seats needed to form a government. The likely coalition of PSOE and far-left Sumar bloc will need the 14 votes of two Catalan separatist parties to form a government. PSOE secured a symbolic victory when their proposed candidate, Francina Armengol, was elected as parliament speaker on 17 August with support from the Catalan parties. If PP and PSOE both fail to form a coalition, new elections will be held at the end-2023.
MENA: Saudi Crown Prince meets Iranian Foreign Minister in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Key risks: political instability, interstate violence
In Saudi Arabia, on 18 August Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossain Amir-Abdollahian in Jeddah in the highest-level talks after the two countries restored diplomatic relations on 10 March following a deal brokered by Beijing. The meeting came a day after Amir-Abdollahian met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. These meetings represent a significant thawing of relations between Riyadh and Tehran, who suspended diplomatic ties for seven years and remain engaged in a proxy war in Yemen. Both the Saudi Crown Prince and Iran’s President accepted invitations to their respective capitals in the near future. Steps have been recently taken to reduce Saudi-Iranian tensions, including a prisoner exchange backed by Huthi fighters on 14 April and Riyadh facilitating the return of Tehran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to the Arab League. It is hoped this will significantly de-escalate tensions in the region.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Zimbabwe heads to the polls on 23 August
Key Risks: political instability
In Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ZANU-PF ruling party will seek a second five-year term in the 23 August general election. Voters will also elect local council representatives and members of parliament. At least 11 candidates will contest the presidential vote, although Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa of the Citizen’s Coalition for Change (CCC) opposition party are considered the front runners. The ruling party is expected to maintain its majority in the National Assembly, although the presidential vote will be more closely contested. The ZANU-PF party has the advantage of incumbency, state power and access to state resources – which it has used to suppress opposition campaigning. The winner must secure 50 per cent plus one of the votes. In the absence of an outright winner, a runoff will be held in October. However, this is unlikely as Mnangagwa is expected to win the first round.