Americas: Heightened political violence risks ahead of 2 June general elections in Mexico

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political violence

In Mexico, on 26 and 27 February, two mayoral candidates were killed in separate shooting attacks in Maravatio, Michoacan state. One of the victims was from the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the other was from the ruling Morena party. The attacks reaffirm expectations that the 2 June general elections will be the most violent on record amid widening control of drug cartels across the country. During the last nationwide election in 2021 – during the run-up to the campaign and the campaign itself – at least 250 politically-motivated killings were recorded. The victims included at least 89 politicians and 35 candidates, as well as their relatives, journalists and civil servants. The risk of political violence is expected to remain heightened – as political campaigns formally began on 1 March for the upcoming elections – at least until after the vote.

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Asia Pacific: Political leadership and lawmakers gather for China’s Two Sessions

Sectors: all
Key Risks: economic risks; political instability; policy uncertainty

In China, on 4 March the Two Sessions – the annual plenary meetings of the country’s legislature and its top political advisory body – is set to begin. Expected to conclude on 11 March, the meetings – particularly pronouncements by the president, premier and foreign minister – serve as key indicators of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s priorities and policy outlook for the coming year. Following the aberrant ousting of former foreign minister Qin Gang and former defence minister Li Shangfu in 2023, further leadership personnel changes are expected to be formalised. Premier Li Qiang – set to deliver his maiden government work report on 5 March – will likely take centre stage in announcing moderate fiscal stimulus and policy support amid worsening market confidence and investor sentiment in the country’s business climate and growth target – expected to be set at around 5 per cent.

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Eurasia: MPs from Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region call for Moscow’s help

Sectors: all
Key Risks: internal conflict; trade disputes; regional tensions

In Moldova, on 28 February a congress of deputies from the de facto legislature of the breakaway region of Transnistria called for Russia to “implement measures” to protect the territory from “pressure” from Chisinau. Chisinau dismissed the calls as propaganda. Tensions between Chisinau and Tiraspol have recently heightened over import and export duties. On 22 January the leader of Transnistria, Alexander Tanas, ordered the region’s defence and intelligence to maintain a “high level of military preparedness” and to hold regular drills for that purpose, without providing an explanation for the order. Russia maintains a small military presence in the region, although it is largely staffed by locals. Moscow has repeatedly used the disputed region to pressure Chisinau over the last 30 years but its ability to intervene militarily amid its invasion of Ukraine is limited. Nevertheless, further escalation cannot be ruled out.

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Europe: 8 March deadline looms for Bulgaria’s ruling coalition to reach power-sharing deal

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability

In Bulgaria, on 29 February head of the centre-right GERB party Boyko Borissov set the deadline to reach an agreement on the rotation of prime ministers with coalition partner We Continue the Change- Democratic Bulgaria (PP-DB) to 8 March. Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov of the PP party is expected to resign on 6 March and be replaced by GERB’s Mariya Gabriel – a former EU Commissioner – under a May 2023 deal between the formerly bitter rival parties that aimed to break a political deadlock following the April 2023 elections. On 21 February GERB rejected PP-DB’s proposed memorandum on government priorities while PP-DB stated that the proposal was an invitation to talks and not an ultimatum. GERB is expected to send PP their own proposal on 6 March. Political instability will persist and snap elections in June are likely if the parties fail to reach an agreement.

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MENA: Discontent fuels historically low turnout in Iranian legislative elections

Sectors: all
Key risks: political stability, civil unrest

In Iran, on 1 March voters headed to the polls to elect 290 MPs and 88 members of the Assembly of Experts – a legislative body with authority to appoint and dismiss the Supreme Leader. As expected, preliminary results indicate a large conservative victory, with many reformist and moderate candidates barred from running. In addition, the election was marked by a historically low turnout of around 41 per cent amid high voter apathy due to deteriorating socio-economic conditions and general discontent with the leadership. The months-long nationwide protests which erupted in September 2022 and the subsequent security crackdown largely contributed to the eroding confidence in the conservative government in power. A conservative majority ensures policy continuity, which is likely to continue fuelling opposition to the government and sustaining risks of unrest.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Central Bank of Nigeria escalates actions on foreign exchange malpractice

Sectors: all
Key risks: economic risks; business disruptions

In Nigeria, on 1 March the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revoked the licences of 4,173 foreign exchange bureaus that failed to comply with its guidelines, including anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing regulations. On 23 February CBN released new guidelines for foreign exchange bureaus that outlawed street-trading of foreign exchange and raised minimum capital levels for exchange bureaus to US$1.3m. The new measures are part of broad reforms to the country’s forex markets which are grappling with shortages. On 28 February two executives of the Binance cryptocurrency exchange platform were arrested for alleged currency manipulation which was compounding the volatility on the naira. The central bank will likely retain tight foreign currency controls in the coming months. The new stringent measures will significantly affect the business operations of companies heavily reliant on foreign currency.

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