Afghanistan – Pakistan
Shi’ah protests in solidarity with the victims and families of those killed in a 16 February attack in Quetta, Pakistan may intensify throughout the region as members of the community feel increasingly aggrieved at what they see as insufficient protection from the security services.
Heated political struggle between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government and her bitter rival, Khaleda Zia, head of the main opposition party the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), supported by the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, is likely to become more intense and result in more frequent outbursts of violence in the lead-up to elections, which must be held by 24 January 2014. The BNP and Jamaat party will continue to protest against government corruption and human rights abuses both past and present.
While criminal charges against Chevron and Transocean relating to an offshore oil spill in 2011 have been dropped, a civil case remains open. However, given Brazil’s oil output fall in 2012, local energy lobbies will likely demand that the government reduces the penalties against the companies in order to maintain investor confidence in their exploration licenses.
The resignation of Prime Minister Borisov’s government is likely to result in early general elections, as parliament’s two largest parties, GERB and BSP, have not expressed an interest in forming an interim government.
Security will be tightened along the Nigerian border following the kidnapping of seven French nationals in February. However, given the increasingly transnational nature of regional Islamist organisations, there will likely remain a risk of cross-border attacks by armed political groups based beyond Cameroon’s borders. Areas north of Garoua will continue to be a higher risk destination than other parts of the country.
China – US – Japan
Tensions are likely to be heightened between the US, Japan and China over the coming weeks following US criticism of China for hacking allegations, Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe’s visit to Washington, and continuing territorial disputes in the East China Sea.
Unknown assailants blew up four trucks during an attack against Colombia’s largest coal exporter on 24 February. Cerrejon was attacked in Guajira a day before management and workers restarted stalled wage negotiations that caused a 3-week strike and 100,000 tonnes in lost output daily. Both sides condemned the attack, which was attributed to guerrilla groups after President Santos threatened to leave the peace negotiations with the FARC if there are no significant advances. Further attacks against large-scale mining projects are likely.
Former president Laurent Gbagbo appearance at the International Criminal Court on charges with crimes against humanity will generate localised unrest in Cote d’Ivoire.
Upcoming parliamentary elections were brought forward to 22 April, having been originally scheduled for 27 April, following complaints by members of the Coptic Christian minority over a clash with the Easter holiday. President Mursi attempted to ease tensions in the run-up to the polls by offering talks with opposition parties who have threatened a boycott. Ongoing political instability will continue to distract attention from the country’s economic woes, meaning vital policy decisions will be further delayed.
The head of the country’s ruling Democratic Party resigned on 23 February, a day after Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission named him as a suspect in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal. Anas Urbaningrum is accused of taking a US$120m bribe to rig the bidding process for the construction of a sport centre. The revelation comes as another blow to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s push to combat corruption in the country and leaves him in an increasingly weak position ahead of elections in 2014.
Strike action launched by over 150 employees of Keppel Kazakhstan in Aktau over demands for wage increases and better working conditions are unlikely to be one-off events. Wage disparity between local and foreign workers and a widening wealth gap in the country will continue to prompt work stoppages and fuel social tensions in the country.
Islamic insurgents remain determined and capable of confronting French and Malian forces in the north. Further attacks similar to the car bomb in the city of Kidal and the attack on Gao on 21 February, should be expected.
The resumption of the ’5+2′ talks between representatives of Moldova and the breakaway republic of Transnistria., which also includes representatives from the US, Russia, OSCE, EU and Ukraine, is a positive step in improving socioeconomic conditions, although it is unlikely that the talks will make any progress on the status of Transnistria as Tiraspol refuses to discuss its legal position.
North Korea – Russia – China
Beijing is likely to follow Moscow in opposing tough UN financial sanctions against North Korea in response to its latest nuclear test, due to fears of a North Korean collapse and increasing business in the country. On 22 February, the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers also said they would oppose foreign military intervention in North Korea, during a joint news conference in Moscow.
There is a risk that local resident protests over demand for jobs and for Barrick Gold to invest in local water projects will temporarily halt operations at the Lagunas Norte mine in northern Peru.
South Korea – North Korea
Park Geun-hye was sworn in as South Korea’s first female president, urging North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme and vowing to run a clean, transparent government. Although she campaigned on taking a more conciliatory approach to Pyongyang, President Park’s hands will be tied as the North’s recent nuclear and rocket tests have caused greater public security fears and bolstered the positions of hawks in her ruling conservative party.
Moody’s downgraded the UK’s credit rating from Aaa to Aa1. The cut reflects high debt, sluggish growth and the need to continue to extend fiscal consolidation. The medium term economic effects of the cut are likely to be fairly muted though the sterling is likely to fall in the short term as the UK remains a relative investment safehaven. However, the cut comes as a blow to the Coalition and will increase pressure on the government to rethink austerity measures.
Hundreds of government opponents demonstrated in Caracas on 23 February to demand answers about President Chavez’s condition while he remains out of sight in a hospital more than 10 weeks after his latest cancer surgery. Protesters also condemned the government’s most recent economic measures, including the devaluation of the bolivar. Previously, Vice President Maduro declared that Chavez remains in charge from his hospital, where the cabinet has gathered. Tensions are expected to increase as Chavez’s health outlook remains uncertain.
Source: AKE (United Kingdom)