Americas: Chile’s second constitutional referendum to take place on 17 December

Sectors: all
Key Risks: policy and regulatory uncertainty; political instability; civil unrest

In Chile, a second constitutional referendum is scheduled for 17 December when a new constitutional draft – the first one was rejected in 2022 by 62 per cent of votes – will be up for approval. The constitutional reform process is a consequence of the 2019 wave of anti-government unrest locally known as the “estallido social”. In 2020 78 per cent of voters backed replacing the country’s constitution – which dates back to Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The first draft was overwhelmingly rejected as the text included proposals deemed too radical and unwieldy by most Chileans. The new draft is more conservative and business-friendly. Most polls show a much tighter race than in 2022, with the draft still on track to being rejected. This scenario would most likely end the constitutional reform attempt at least under President Gabriel Boric’s administration. Uncertainty will persist until the results are announced.

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Asia Pacific: Lawmakers to review Philippine 1987 constitution to ease rules on foreign ownership

Sectors: all
Key Risks: economic; foreign investment; political instability

In the Philippines, House Speaker Martin Romualdez announced that lawmakers were inclined to revise the 1987 constitution to ease restrictive provisions on economic ownership. However, procedural requirements have hampered previous such attempts. Lawmakers seek to review provisions to enable them to ‘regulate’ economic sectors to drive FDI. Foreign business owners have called on Congress to lift the 60-40 limits to foreign investment, which effectively cap foreign ownership of local firms at 40 per cent. In March 2022 the Foreign Investments Act was amended to allow international investors to set up and wholly own small and medium-sized businesses, while holding 100 per cent equity in firms in sectors where they were able to operate. Constitutional reviews or amendments including procedural changes will face significant backlash, with opposition politicians slated to warn of the slippery slope of amendments – which risks presidential term limit changes.

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Eurasia: European Council to vote on Ukraine’s, Moldova’s EU accession talks

Sectors: all
Key Risks: lack of reforms; corruption; regional integration

On 14-15 December the European Council will vote on the European Commission’s 8 November recommendation to start formal accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova as soon as the outstanding conditions are met. The decision requires a unanimous vote of the 27 EU members, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban threatening to block Kyiv’s accession talks. Orban appears to be seeking to leverage his veto power in his push to unblock billions of euros worth of cohesion funds for Budapest that Brussels froze in December 2022 over rule of law concerns. On 8 December Kyiv’s parliament approved several bills – signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelensky – in accordance with Brussels’ recommendations on anti-corruption and national minorities. Despite Kyiv’s efforts to meet the recommendations, there are increasing concerns that Budapest will veto Kyiv’s talks.

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Europe: Serbia to hold parliamentary and local elections on 17 December

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability

In Serbia, on 17 December voters will head to the polls in early elections to elect their next parliament and local authorities in 60 municipalities. On 1 November President Alexandar Vucic dissolved parliament following a months-long series of opposition protests known as ‘Serbia Against Violence’ triggered by two mass shootings in May in which 18 people were killed. Seizing on the movement and on general discontent with the government, several pro-European opposition parties have formed a bloc under the same name Serbia Against Violence (SPN), challenging Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). According to recent polls, the SNS is likely to see a decline in support and SPN could secure the best result of any opposition party since 2012, including a possible victory in the capital Belgrade. However, the SNS still dominates the media and is likely to win most seats in parliament.

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MENA: Washington’s support for Israel puts US forces in the crosshairs in Iraq and Syria

Sectors: all
Key risks: external conflict; regional escalation

In Iraq and Syria, on 8 December at least 11 missiles and explosive-laden drone attacks on US military bases were reported. The attacks were claimed by Iran-backed Shi’ah militias – collectively known as the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq’. In addition, several rockets were fired at the US Embassy in Baghdad, marking a serious escalation – as previous Islamic Resistance attacks have been limited to military targets. No casualties were reported. Since 17 October US military assets in both countries have been attacked nearly 100 times, explicitly in response to US support for Israel in the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. A spokesperson for an Islamic Resistance faction warned that any retaliation would be met with “severe retaliatory measures and an expansion of operations.” Attacks are likely to continue and, in the event of a US military response, an escalation cannot be ruled out.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Former Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma placed under house arrest

Sectors: all
Key risks: political instability; insecurity

In Sierra Leone, on 9 December former president Ernest Bai Koroma was placed under house arrest after he was questioned by the police over the attack on several security facilities on 26 November – which the government labelled as an ‘attempted coup’. Over 50 people, including Koroma’s bodyguard, have so far been arrested in connection with the attack carried out by unidentified assailants on a military armoury, two other barracks, two prisons and two police stations. The country has been overall unstable since the re-election of President Julius Maada Bio in the disputed June election. Koroma’s arrest indicates that the government will likely intensify its political crackdown on perceived political opponents. The heightened security challenges facing the country will disrupt government efforts to address economic challenges – which were the dominant issue in the election.

Click here to access Sierra Leone’s Global Intake country profile.