Americas: Argentina’s JxC opposition coalition secures governorship of Mendoza province
Key Risks: policy uncertainty; governability; political stability
In Argentina, on 24 September Alfredo Cornejo from the main opposition coalition, Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), won the governorship of Mendoza province in the last provincial governor election ahead of the 22 October general elections. Cornejo’s win represents a boost for JxC and its presidential candidate, former security minister Patricia Bullrich, ahead of the vote. Far-right libertarian Javier Milei – who unexpectedly won most votes in the 13 August presidential primaries – led the most recent polls with around 31.1 per cent of the vote, ahead of the ruling Peronist Union por la Patria coalition’s candidate and current Economy Minister, Sergio Massa (28.1 per cent) Bullrich (21.2 per cent). The polls suggest the 22 October vote will lead to a second round, scheduled for 19 November, amid a highly uncertain electoral race during which political violence risks are set to increase.
Asia Pacific: Vote on opposition leader’s arrest roils South Korean politics
Key Risks: political instability; political polarisation; civil unrest
In South Korea, on 25 September the opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) announced that its leader, Lee Jae-myung, would attend an upcoming court hearing on his arrest warrant over corruption and breach of duty charges in previous roles. The announcement came after Lee ended a 24-day hunger strike against perceived democratic backsliding under President Yoon Suk-yeol on 23 September. On 21 September the DPK-controlled National Assembly passed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and unexpectedly revoked Lee’s parliamentary immunity – allowing for his likely arrest. Lee has faced a series of what he claims to be politically-motivated charges since narrowly losing the 2022 presidential election to Yoon, threatening his leadership ahead of the April 2024 legislative elections. The votes have also prompted opposition rallies and paralysed the work of the Assembly. Political instability risks are expected to persist.
Eurasia: Mass exodus of ethnic Armenians begins amid fragile ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh
Key Risks: war-on-land; forced displacement; ethnic cleansing; humanitarian crisis
In Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), on 24 September authorities stated that 120,000 ethnic Armenian residents would leave for Armenia as they fear persecution and ethnic cleansing under Azerbaijan’s control. Yerevan reported that 1,050 people had crossed from NK into Armenia as of 22:00 local time amid a mass exodus through the Lachin corridor. A fragile ceasefire has been in place after Baku launched a 24-hour-long offensive against NK on 19 September. On 21 September NK and Azerbaijani officials met to discuss the rights, security and ‘reintegration’ of NK into Azerbaijan, but no official agreement has been reached. Baku pledged to guarantee ethnic Armenians’ rights, but Armenian officials have warned that Baku intends to carry out ethnic cleansing in the region. Tens of thousands of residents will likely leave in the coming weeks. Tensions in the region will remain high.
Europe: Fico leads polls as Slovakia heads for early parliamentary elections
Key risks: political stability
In Slovakia, on 30 September citizens are set to vote in early parliamentary elections. No party is projected to secure an absolute majority, but the Smer party led by populist candidate Robert Fico is projected to narrowly win the vote. Fico has caused controversy by calling for an end to arms shipments to Ukraine and criticising Western sanctions on Russia. Bratislava has thus far been a strong supporter of Ukraine in its fight against Russia and has supplied weapons to Kyiv. Fico’s pro-Russian rhetoric has caused concern among Kyiv’s allies, who wish to maintain a united front amid a slow Ukrainian counter-offensive. However, Fico was described as a pragmatic leader under his previous premierships in 2006-10 and 2012-18 and may moderate his divisive stance after the election. Coalition talks will be difficult and political instability is likely if no clear winner emerges from the election.
MENA: Assad’s China visit to boost Syrian regime’s international standing
Key risks: political stability; internal conflict; economic
In China, on 21 September Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Hangzhou for a four-day state visit. On 22 September Assad met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for talks on bilateral relations and the ongoing Syrian civil war. Xi expressed support for the Assad regime and urged for the lifting of US-led international sanctions on Damascus, denouncing them as interference in Syrian internal affairs. The visit came as the Assad regime seeks to end its diplomatic isolation and regain international recognition. Damascus has already made significant progress in regaining regional standing with its readmission into the Arab League in May. The strategic partnership between the two countries, signalling greater Chinese political support and economic involvement in Syria, will likely boost Assad’s global prospects as well as advance Chinese ambitions for greater influence in the Middle East.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Voters head to the polls on 29 September in eSwatini
Key Risks: policy continuity
In eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), hundreds of thousands of registered voters will go to the polls on 29 September to elect members of parliament in the country’s general election. Voters will cast their ballots to choose 59 members of parliament (MPs) who were nominated during the 26 August primaries. The upcoming vote is unlikely to significantly alter the political landscape, where King Mswati III has held absolute power since 1986. The king appoints twenty senators, while the lower house of the Assembly elects the remaining ten. This arrangement, criticised by activists, is seen as favouring the monarch and limiting parliamentary oversight. The electoral system is structured to stifle dissent, ensuring minimal opposition to the king’s rule. Although the vote is expected to pass peacefully, isolated protests cannot be ruled out. No major changes to government are expected.