Americas: Panama gearing for an uncertain and controversial 5 May presidential election

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; civil unrest

In Panama, on 5 May voters will head to the polls to choose between six presidential candidates – among whom frontrunner Jose Raul Mulino of the Realising Goals party. Mulino – who was supposed to be the vice-presidential candidate of former president Ricardo Martinelli, whose candidacy was disqualified due to an 11-year prison sentence – has assumed the top position on the presidential ticket and has benefited from Martinelli’s support. Recent polls show candidates Ricardo Lombana, Romulo Roux and former president Martin Torrijos tied in second place behind Mulino. Mulino’s candidacy faces uncertainty as the Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to electoral authorities’ decision to allow Mulino to run without a vice-presidential candidate, is imminent. Pending the Supreme Court’s ruling, risks of civil unrest and political instability will be heightened in the run-up to and after the vote.

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Asia Pacific: Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announces his first cabinet reshuffle

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; policy continuity

In Thailand, on 28 April Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced his first cabinet reshuffle, in which he relinquished his concurrent finance minister role and appointed former Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) chair and economic advisor Pichai Chunhavajira to succeed him. The transport, tourism, culture and health portfolios were also reshuffled. Shortly after the announcement, Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara abruptly resigned in protest of the removal of his deputy prime minister post. Retired diplomat Maris Sangiampongsa is expected to replace him. Pichai will oversee efforts to stimulate the country’s tepid economic growth, including through the ruling Pheu Thai Party (PTP)’s long-delayed THB500bln (US$13.5bln) digital cash handout scheme. His appointment will likely improve policy coordination with the central bank – which has been locked in a dispute with Srettha over its record-high interest rates – and improve confidence in the government’s economic management.

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Eurasia: Civil unrest risks increased in Armenia over handover of four villages to Azerbaijan

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; war on land

In Armenia, on 26 April local media reported scuffles between police and protesters in Kirants, Tavush region, while protesters reportedly blocked roads in the capital Yerevan amid demonstrations against the government’s decision to cede control of four abandoned villages in Tavush region to Azerbaijan. In Kirants, protesters attempted to stop a vehicle that they believed belonged to Azerbaijani officials travelling to the region for cartographic work. Protests have been ongoing in the Tavush region since 19 April when Yerevan announced the decision, with protesters blocking roads in the area since then. Protests have also spread beyond the region, including to Yerevan. On 28 April protesters reportedly blocked sections of the Yerevan-Gyumri and Martuni-Vardenis highways. Protests – with the potential to cause major disruptions and turn violent – are set to continue in the coming days.

Click here to access Armenia’s Global Intake country profile.

Europe: Spain’s PM Sanchez to remain in office amid corruption probe, heightened instability

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; corruption

In Spain, on 29 April Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated that he would continue to lead the government after thousands of his supporters rallied in Madrid on 28 April. On 24 April Sanchez stepped back from public duties to determine his future after a court announced it was launching a probe into accusations of influence peddling and corruption in private business dealings levelled against Sanchez’s wife, Begona Gomez. The court was addressing a complaint by anti-graft group Manos Limpias, whose leader has alleged links to the far-right. Sanchez claimed the probe was being orchestrated by his political opponents. The far-right Vox party has increasingly clashed with Sanchez over his controversial amnesty for Catalan separatists. The graft scandal is a major blow to Sanchez’s ruling Socialists (PSOE)-led coalition. Political instability will remain heightened.

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MENA: Israeli government bracing for International Criminal Court arrest warrants over Gaza war

Sectors: all
Key risks: war; humanitarian crisis

In Israel, on 26 April Prime Minister Netanyahu stated through social media that “Israel will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defence.” The statement came amid growing reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to issue arrest warrants against top Israeli officials, including Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yaov Gallant in the coming days over Gaza war policy, specifically alleged deliberate Israeli measures to block access to humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Accordingly, military spokesperson Nadav Shoshani conducted a rare briefing to foreign journalists emphasising Israeli support for the temporary humanitarian pier off Gaza. In addition, Tel Aviv is reportedly engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to prevent any ICC action. While the issuance of ICC arrest warrants cannot be ruled out, they are unlikely to significantly impact Israeli policy in Gaza.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Togo to vote in delayed regional and legislative elections on 29 April

Sectors: all
Key risks: political instability; political violence; civil unrest  

In Togo, on 29 April 4.2 million eligible voters will head to the delayed polls to elect regional and legislative representatives. The elections – initially scheduled for December 2023 – were postponed by President Faure Gnassingbe to 20 April and later to 29 April. 2,500 candidates from different political parties are vying for 113 parliamentary seats and 179 regional council seats. Political tensions have been high throughout the country in recent weeks after parliament – dominated by the ruling UNIR party – on 20 April passed amendments to the constitution and introduced a parliamentary system of government where the president will be elected by parliament, replacing a direct universal suffrage election. The opposition and civil society groups protested the constitutional amendments denouncing them as a “constitutional coup”. The risk of post-election-related unrest will remain high in the coming days.

Click here to access Togo’s Global Intake country profile.