There’s trouble in Africa’s biggest countries. Latin America faces a crisis in Venezuela. Millions of people are also set to mark Chinese New Year putting significant pressure on many East Asian travel hubs.
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Cold conditions usually persist in the northern hemisphere throughout February. This can often lead to travel disruption, but it’s good for ski destinations such as the Alps.
In the southern hemisphere February normally marks the beginning of the end of summer. It’s a popular time to visit South Africa and New Zealand, as well as Australia if you can handle the current heat. Parts of the country have been breaking records in recent sweltering conditions.
Good weather opportunities
The following parts of the world also mark notable weather changes this month:
Belize: the dry season usually begins in February and lasts until May.
Burundi: quite the opposite to Belize, the first rainy season normally starts this month and also lasts until May.
Falkland Islands: two months of relatively warmer weather will draw to a close by the end of February so start to get ready for colder conditions.
Nauru: the rainy season which began in November usually ends this month.
We recently warned that the El Nino weather phenomenon could occur this year. However, the risk appears to be fading.
The event could still take place, but either way, climate change is still occurring. The year ahead is likely to see more record-breaking weather conditions all over the world – not just in Australia.
Year of the Pig
Chinese New Year takes place on the 5th February. Travellers should expect busier than normal conditions at numerous East Asian travel hubs, particularly around China. Many of those marking the event will travel great distances to spend time with family.
For a short month, February will see a number of elections (particularly around the weekend of the 24th). Tensions are also boiling over in countries with a less than stellar democratic record.
Corruption, violence and diversification
The biggest polls to watch this month take place in Nigeria. One of the world’s largest electorates will vote in general elections on the 16th of February.
As ever, there are widespread concerns over the risk of vote-rigging. However, even if the election is completely transparent, the frontrunning candidates don’t seem to be offering any major policies that the country really needs.
Corruption is endemic, youth unemployment is rising and the economy remains unhealthily reliant on oil. Whoever wins will need to crack down on corruption and diversify the economy into job-creating sectors. The alternative is a risk of widespread unrest in Africa’s most populous country.
Militant group Boko Haram may also try to conduct terrorist attacks around the election to disrupt proceedings and intimidate voters.
Central American Changeover
El Salvador faces a close presidential election on the 3rd of February. The ruling FMLN candidate is expected to lose. Opposition figure Nayib Bukele looks most likely to win, but opinion polls suggest that the race is closing.
The results look more predictable in Senegal. The country holds a presidential election on the 24th of February with President Macky Sall likely to win for another term.
Critics have called his style dictatorial, but investors will likely approve of the policy continuity likely to prevail under his leadership.
Moldova holds parliamentary elections on the 24th of February as well. At present, the results could leave the country with a hung parliament.
This could lead to elections being held again before the year is out and will likely hold back the drafting of new legislation.
This in turn will slow much-needed efforts to modernise the economy of one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Cuban constitutional change
The 24th of February looks to be a busy Sunday across the world with Cuba also holding a referendum on the day.
The poll covers a range of issues including property ownership. It marks the gradual transition of the country towards a more market-orientated economy.
Finally, Libya is scheduled to hold a constitutional referendum on the 28th February. The vote is part of a political timetable aimed at establishing a more functioning democracy in the country.
However, various security and logistical challenges mean that the vote could be delayed, perhaps by months. This will push back the potential for elections even further.
Widespread insecurity will persist.
Keep an eye out on countries which aren’t holding elections but possibly need to.
Venezuela is facing more international pressure over its flawed governance but President Maduro has strong support from the military. Huge swathes of the public are unhappy but many still support the ruling party as well.
The US and Europe may criticise the regime. The international media may also give airtime to opposition figures. However, despite dire conditions on the ground, Maduro still has strong backing from international trade partners, most notably China.
Russia may provide symbolic help such as military assets and photo opportunities but China holds major economic sway and will prove highly instrumental in supporting the regime.
Nonetheless, the pressures are high and the dynamics are fluid, so while
Maduro still has the backing to remain in power, things could change – and at very short notice.
Concerns for Khartoum
Sudan continues to face similar pressure. The economy has been devastated by years of mismanagement. Members of the public are now protesting regularly.
Unlike Venezuela, the country does not have the same extensive natural resources to back up the failing regime. Consequently, it cannot rely on the same international support from China, despite relatively close ties between the two countries. There is only so much that Beijing will be willing to do.
For now, the security forces are willing to use brutality to intimidate the demonstrators and back long-term ruler Omar al-Bashir. However, sooner or later this setup will fall apart, with the potential for chaos.
Elsewhere in Africa, expect more unrest in the DR Congo following controversial elections held in December.
Felix Tshisekedi has been sworn in as president, despite fellow contender Martin Fayulu contesting the results.
With Fayulu refusing to take part in any compromise agreement his supporters may take to the streets to contest the results.
Tensions in Myanmar
Moving to Southeast Asia, the ethnic Arakan army has stepped up its campaign against the authorities in Myanmar. The civilian government and still-dominant military are now co-operating to clamp down on the organisation, as well as other ethnic groups around the country.
Essentially, this spells the end to the peace deal pursued by Aung San Suu Kyi. The hawkishness towards domestic groups is likely to spread to other parts of the country, with prospects for any further peace talks dwindling for now.
One to watch
Humanitarian workers in Liberia have warned that crime rates are gradually rising. Tensions over unemployment and other issues could also spark demonstrations in the near future.
It’s still early days and the warning isn’t being seen as cause for alarm. Nonetheless, organisations with staff in the country should review contingency plans accordingly.
The following is a chronological roundup of various dates, events, festivals, anniversaries and public holidays to be expected over the course of the month:
Iran: Fajr Decade (10 days celebration of 1979 revolution)
El Salvador: presidential elections
Sri Lanka: Independence Day
China: Chinese New Year’s Eve
Burundi: Unity Day
China: Chinese New Year
Mexico: Anniversary of the Constitution
New Zealand: Waitangi Day
Malta: The Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck
Cameroon: Youth Day
Japan: National Foundation Day
Liberia: Armed Forces Day
Myanmar: Union Day
Lebanon: Rafiq Hariri Memorial Day
Afghanistan: Liberation Day
Lithuania: Restoration of the State Day
Nigeria: general elections
North Korea: Birthday of Kim Jong-Il
Kosovo: Independence Day
United States: President’s Day
Buddhism: Full Moon event in several countries
Puerto Rico: Presidents Day
Bangladesh: Language Martyrs’ Day
Russia: Defence of the Fatherland Day
Estonia: Independence Day
Moldova: parliamentary election
Senegal: presidential election
Kuwait: National Day
Kuwait: Liberation Day
Dominican Republic: Independence Day
Libya: constitutional referendum (at risk of cancellation)
As you can see, for such a short month, there is quite a lot going on. However conditions develop, we hope you have safe travels ahead!