In our December travel safety roundup we examine Algerian protests against ‘le pouvoir’, Brexit and high temperatures in Australia.

While the land down under faces heat and more fires, a dispute with Russia could leave Ukraine freezing.

Elsewhere, the Harmattan is forecast to affect West Africa from now until March. Presidential elections are also due to be held in Croatia.

The festive period will also see high rates of travel around the world. We hope to avoid some of the disruption that occurred this time last year.

Read on to find out more about polls, pipeline disputes and weather changes.

Please also register with our site and upload comments on locations that you know. The more everyone contributes, the more we will all benefit from one another’s insight.

The Brexit Election

The United Kingdom will hold a general election on the 12th of December. Brexit remains the leading issue, with the NHS, crime, welfare, infrastructure, the economy and the Union in general also being hotly debated.

Opinion polls are controversially predicting a lead by the Conservative party but there is still everything to play for; opinion polls are far from definitive and a lot may still change in the days ahead of what will be one of the most important elections in the country in decades.

Pouvoir to the people

Algeria holds presidential elections on the 12th December but turnout is likely to be low. Many voters resent all of the candidates being presented to them.

The vote was originally scheduled for April but was postponed amid popular protests against the decision for incumbent president Bouteflika to run for a fifth term, which he was widely expected to win (not least because of government interference). While he is no longer standing, the five latest candidates are all seen as too closely aligned to ‘le pouvoir’ – the shady consortium of political, business and military figures who have run the country’s institutions illiberally for decades.

As a result, voter turnout is likely to be low. If no candidate garners enough votes a runoff poll is likely to take place in 2020.

Civil unrest

Peaceful protests have been taking place in several parts of the country for much of the year, particularly affecting Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Serif and the wider Kabylie region. Expect further demonstrations in the coming days and weeks.

The authorities may also restrict communications, including access to the internet, in an attempt to quell any large-scale protests. The demonstrations may also lead to localised travel disruption in town and city centres.

So far the demonstrators have repeatedly stated their intent to remain peaceful, but there may come a point when the security forces intervene, either by order or through an unplanned escalation amid high tensions.

As such, the situation, while relatively violence-free for now, could always escalate. This protest movement, like most others, will have a tipping point. We hope that it is not reached.

Croatia’s head of state

In Croatia, a presidential election will be held on the 22nd December. For now, the centre-right incumbent Kolinda Graber-Katarovic is leading in opinion polls. The leftist politician Zoran Milanovic is currently her nearest rival. If there is no clear winner this month, a run-off vote will take place on the 5th of January.

The president is the head of state, representative of the country internationally and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. However, the position is not as powerful as that of prime minister in Croatia’s political system.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of the Croatian Democratic Union will remain in the position at least until next year.

Chilling forecast

A controversial gas pipeline deal between Russia and Ukraine is set to expire on the 31st of December.

Negotiations have not yet led to an extension, which could prompt Russia to cut off supplies in the middle of winter.

A new pipeline

This would have huge ramifications for Ukraine and onwards down the pipeline network in Europe. Furthermore, it would leave Russia without paying customers for its valuable exports. Moscow may therefore seek a temporary extension of the deal, at least until it has completed the Nord Stream 2 project. This new system will allow it to export natural gas to Europe via an undersea pipeline through the Baltic, therefore bypassing the need to transit Ukraine.

Even then, however, Russia would still benefit from ongoing sales to Ukraine, so longer term agreements may still be possible. Any negotiation, however, will remain hotly linked to the ongoing dispute of the territories of Crimea and Donbass, no longer under the control of Kiev.

Seasonal weather changes

We would like to reinforce that December in the northern hemisphere is traditionally cold, often bitterly so in places like Russia and Ukraine.

However, in the southern hemisphere, this month also marks the approximate start of summer. Be prepared for further fire risks in places such as Australia, which has been so badly affected in recent weeks.

Meteorologists are warning that the country faces more drought, higher-than-average heat and a consequent risk of further fires in the coming weeks.

It is normally around December that parts of West Africa also begin to experience more frequent dusty Harmattan winds, a trend which usually lasts until March. They are particularly felt in Niger, Burkina Faso, western Chad, northern Ghana, northern Nigeria, northern Benin, northern Togo, eastern Cote D’Ivoire as well as further west and south of these areas to a lesser but still noticeable degree, having an impact on visibility and respiratory conditions among other things.

Where to go

Popular travel destinations at this time of year include the Alps, South Africa, islands off the west coast of Africa (such as the Canary Islands, Madeira and Cape Verde), Latin America, the Caribbean as well as South and South East Asia.

However, perhaps the most popular travel destination around the festive period is home. If you are returning to see loved ones, we hope you experience minimal disruption.

Last year drone activity caused airport misery for thousands. Otherwise, the most common cause of disruption at this time of year is usually difficult weather conditions so keep an eye on the forecast before setting out on any journey.

Standard Weather Changes

The following countries and territories also mark notable weather changes this month:

Christmas Island: the rainy season begins and usually lasts until April.
Japan: the typhoon season comes to an end (although typhoons can still sporadically occur).
Kosovo: snowfall can be particularly heavy this month, but it normally eases from the end of the year.
Mauritius: there is a particularly high risk of cyclones from mid-December to March (although they only usually occur once every few years)
Philippines: the typhoon season comes to an end (although they can still sporadically occur)
Sierra Leone: the rainy season usually ends this month
Sri Lanka: the north-eastern monsoon usually begins in December and lasts until March
Timor Leste: the rainy season usually begins this month and lasts until April

Key Dates

1 December
Portugal: Restoration Day
Romania: National Day
Worldwide: World AIDS Day

2 December
Myanmar: National Day
United Arab Emirates: National Day

6 December
Ecuador: Foundation of Quito Day
Finland: Independence Day
Laos: National Day
Spain: Constitution Day

8 December
Christianity: Immaculate Conception Day
Uzbekistan: Constitution Day

9 December
Tanzania: Independence Day

Human Rights

10 December
Worldwide: Human Rights Day

12 December
Kenya: Jamhuri/Independence Day
Mexico: Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival
Turkmenistan: Neutrality Day

13 December
Malta: Republic Day

16 December
Bahrain: National Day
Bangladesh: Victory Day
South Africa: Reconciliation Day

17 December
Bhutan: National Day
Kazakhstan: Independence Day

18 December
Niger: Republic Day
Qatar: National Day

The Christmas Period

24 December
Christianity: Christmas Eve

25 December
Christianity: Christmas Day

26 December
Australia: Proclamation Day
Christianity: St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day

30 December
Philippines: Rizal Day

31 December
Azerbaijan: International Solidarity Day
Worldwide: New Year’s Eve

We hope you have safe travels ahead!

Pouvoir to the people!
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