The world is set to witness some fairly tense elections this month.
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We start with Armenia which will hold national assembly elections on the 9th December. Nikol Pashinyan, who led popular demonstrations against the long-standing incumbent Republic Party earlier in the year dissolved the parliament at the start of November in preparation for the polls. His Yelk Alliance is widely expected to win.
Pashinyan’s ideology has been hard to pin down. Essentially, he appears to be a pragmatic centrist and somewhat of a populist. You can read more about him in this Eurasianet article by Grigor Atanesian earlier this year. However, Atanesian also documents some of the potentially problematic personality cult developments associated with the figure here. Pashinyan is without doubt one to watch.
Libya was scheduled to hold elections on the 10th December but international partners appear to have lost hope that it will be practical to arrange the poll. The country remains wracked with militant conflict and repeated disagreements between the opposing Tripoli- and eastern-based governments.
Instead, external mediators are now reportedly focussing on encouraging dialogue and a cessation of hostilities in the hope of holding the election next year. You can read more in this Reuters article by Ulf Laessing and Aidan Lewis.
Keep an eye out for developments in Togo this month. Opposition supporters look set to boycott national assembly elections due to be held on the 20th December.
A number of opposition parties have not been registered as official contestants. This has prompted many to call for long-term president Faure Gnassingbe (in power since his father died in 2005) to resign. There are also widespread calls for a two-term presidential limit to be put in place (there currently aren’t any term limits in place at all).
These demands are unlikely to be met. It could also be too late in the day for the excluded opposition parties to be added to the ballot papers. As such, expect unrest surrounding the election. You can read more about the context in this Bloomberg article by Kossi Woussou.
Otherwise, if you want an inspiring story on Togo have look at the tech recycling expertise that’s growing in the country in this BBC article by Waihiga Mwaura. Tech innovations are going to change West African life faster than almost everything else in the coming years. It’s definitely something to pay attention to. Given that population growth is exceeding economic growth, tech is going to be vital for providing jobs and encouraging young entrepreneurs in the region.
40 million set to vote
Returning to political controversy, we take a look at the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country is set to hold elections on the 23rd December. To be fair, this election could use a Starling article all on its own because there is a lot going on right now. We might actually compile one so be sure to subscribe to our mailing list using the tab on the right. We will then send it to you when it’s ready.
Dislodging the Dynasty
President Joseph Kabila has been in power since his father Laurent Kabila was assassinated in 2001. He was due to stand down in elections in 2016 but postponed them until now. Naturally this provoked much criticism and public protests. His anointed successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary may win the polls. If so, many expect him to govern under close supervision of Kabila until he is able to stand for president again at the next election. However, a considerable chunk of the opposition have united around one figure – Martin Fayulu. He is a Western-educated former oil and gas executive who is definitely one to watch.
The poll is going to be highly challenging. Many expect there to be widespread fraud. There is also ongoing militancy in certain areas as well as the second largest Ebola outbreak in recorded history . Consider also the general challenge of recording the political will of some 40 million people across a country the size of Western Europe. Nonetheless, as flawed as it may be, this election will still mark the first ever democratic transfer of power in the country. This is worthy of some celebration at least. Good governance takes time and this is a step in the right direction.
We now move to the Indian Ocean where Madagascar is set to hold run-off presidential elections on the 19th December. We forecast the potential for violence in our political roundup last month. However, the event proceeded more smoothly and peacefully than expected – always a nice bonus for the political risk world.
There is now more optimism for the final stage of the vote as well, although there are concerns nonetheless, given the history of unrest in the country. The two contenders, long-standing opponents Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, have both seized power by force in the past. You can read more on the various dynamics, trends and issues in this Al-Jazeera English article with David Child.
Calamity in Colombo
Finally, in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena has dissolved parliament and called for a general election on the 5th January. While the vote isn’t taking place in December we decided to include this one in our article nonetheless. It’s going to cause all sorts of tensions in the country over the course of the month.
The island nation has been in a constitutional crisis since President Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with his long-term rival Mahinda Rajapaksa in October. Mr. Wickremesinghe and his supporters called the move unconstitutional and invalid. They maintain that he is still the lawful prime minister. Mr. Rajapaksa on the other hand lost no time in affirming his new position. He has made public statements claiming the fact, rallying supporters and even signing deals with foreign partners. The latter is a particularly bold move, indicative of his confidence.
The debate continues as to which one should be the lawful leader. Rising tempers over the matter have led to protests and even brawling in parliament in recent weeks. Now, it looks set to be decided by public vote in the new year.
Both candidates are long-term veterans of Sri Lankan politics. Mr. Rajapaksa was the country’s controversial leader who oversaw the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009. He also has long sought investment from China. Mr. Wickremesinghe, a long-term centrist figurehead of the United National Party has favoured co-operation with India. Rajapaksa has strong populist support from the Sinhala-Buddhist majority and appears confident of a win in the voting. However, the demographics of the electorate have changed since the Tamil Tiger defeat and his success is not guaranteed.
Either way, be prepared for unrest and demonstrations in places such as central Colombo. Any investors might want to hold back on signing any governmental deals as well – at least until the dust settles.
Otherwise, December to March is an ideal time to visit Sri Lanka, particularly the south-western region. The weather is usually excellent and as long as you avoid any of the demonstrations in downtown Colombo you are unlikely to be affected by the political tensions. The beaches are amazing…
We hope you have safe travels ahead!