Contentious elections are taking place around the world this month. Find out what might happen and how it might affect travel safety below.
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Two years on from the election of Donald Trump, the United States returned to the polls for midterm elections on the 6th November. Both the Senate and House of Representatives were previously dominated by the Republican Party, but the Democrats have taken back control of the latter. This could pose many obstacles to Republican policy initiatives and could even theoretically lead to an impeachment of the president.
But how does this affect travel?
For a start, it could impede President Trump’s moves at restricting entry to nationals from certain countries, which would be positive for people trying to arrive from several parts of the world.
More worrying, however, is that we are currently in a period of heightened public tension and political violence in the United States. Recent weeks have seen identity-based hate-crimes, including the shooting dead of a number of worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and the posting of parcel bombs to several high-profile figures associated with the Democrats.
Increasingly confrontational rhetoric, not least propagated by President Trump himself, only appears to be stoking the tensions further. His rhetoric may now intensify if he is frustrated by government deadlock and his anger, likely targeted at the Democrats, could polarise society further and even inspire radical individuals to engage in more acts of violence against people and places associated with liberal values.
Potential targets could include Democrat politicians, commercial outlets associated with them as well as community centres associated with minority groups.
While a trip to the United States today will almost certainly remain a safe experience for the vast majority of travellers, the politics of hate and identity are likely to trigger further outbursts in the country over the coming months at least.
Elsewhere in the Americas, the recent election of right-wing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro looks like part of a similar trend. Dubbed the ‘Trump of South America’ his opponents may stage rallies in busy urban areas over the coming months which could lead to localised travel disruption. Potential rallying dates for both sides could include the 15th November (Republic Day) or the weekend immediately after.
Bolsonaro’s outspoken comments on migrants, women and the LGBTQ+ community could also lead to a greater culture of hostility towards certain travellers which should be borne in mind. We still think Brazil will remain an incredible travel destination, and those visiting the country should be far more concerned about road traffic accidents and crime, but the changing political landscape should be taken into consideration as well.
Contentious municipal elections are also being in eastern Ukraine this month. The West has criticised Russia for endorsing the polls, due to take place on the 11th November, because they are in breach of the 2015 Minsk Agreement. Russia has countered that they need to take place amid a power vacuum left in the disputed territory, following the August assassination of Minsk signatory and separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko. The diplomatic fallout over the polls may worsen with international criticism of Moscow.
Sporadic clashes may also intensify around the frontlines between Kiev-controlled Ukraine and Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. However, the situation within the disputed territory is unlikely to worsen significantly. It is worth monitoring nonetheless, particularly for any travellers heading to the region. Bear in mind that it might be a controversial conversational topic in many areas, including Russia, for the coming weeks at least.
Tensions in Antananarivo
On the 7th November Madagascar holds presidential elections. As well as being a major logistical challenge, the political climate has been tense this year with protests turning violent in April.
Similar, potentially violent protests could also take place in the coming days and after the results are announced. Take particular care in central Antananarivo as well as other urban parts of the country this month.
The politics in this stunning Indian Ocean island country have been tumultuous over recent years. The climate of controversy, corruption and agitation does not look set to dissipate after these newest polls.
Bainimarama set to dominate
Another country with a history of recent coups is Fiji, which will hold parliamentary elections on the 14th November. Former military commander Frank Bainimarama looks set to dominate the election, which should return him to power under far more democratic circumstances that the 2006 coup in which he seized it by force.
Fiji is a diverse, traditional and beautiful country but unrest can often feel close by, so travellers should monitor the current political climate and avoid any demonstrations or military activities, which sometimes take place in Suva.
Regardless of who dominates the latest polls, racial politics, poor integration, wealth-inequality and underdevelopment remain significantly problematic and the country still has to face a long path of reconciliation, sensible development and community-based cohesion-building.