Our coverage of the Americas this month includes a new report on Dominican Republic, where the country’s wildly popular incumbent president, Danilo Medina, has given his blessing to a bid by his supporters in the governing Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) to secure a constitutional amendment that will permit him to stand for immediate re-election in 2016. That decision is a crushing blow to the ambitions of former President Leonel Fernández, who has for months been behaving as if he was a sure bet to be the PLD’s nominee in next year’s election.
The report will assess the prospects for actually securing approval of an amendment, which will require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature, and could face a legal challenge, and how success or failure could affect the PLD’s status as the clear favorite to retain the presidency in 2016. Polls indicate that either Medina or Fernández would defeat any of the likely opposition challengers, but competition for the nomination could adversely affect the unity of the party, with implications for the PLD’s retention of its majority status in the legislature, as well.
Turning to Sub-Saharan Africa, the political scene in Botswana has stabilized following the October 2014 elections, at which the incumbent Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was returned to power with a reduced majority. President Ian Khama will continue to pursue business-friendly policies aimed at attracting investment into the key mining sector, while maintaining a tough position on trade union militancy. However, the BDP’s defeats at three by-elections held in late January reflected the narrowing gap between the ruling party and the opposition. Opposition parties will use discontent over living conditions to maintain pressure on Khama, who is serving his second and final term in office.
The election of a new BDP chairman at the July congress will be closely watched for signs of internal divisions as rival factions prepare to jockey for the coming leadership transition. Still, barring a major economic downturn, tensions within the governing party are likely to be contained until later in the current term, when, assuming he holds with tradition, Khama is expected to make an early departure, handing over the reins to his designated successor, who will then be able to campaign for the presidency as the incumbent. The economy will maintain a growth rate above 4%, despite lower diamond prices and electricity shortages. Inflation has been trending toward the bottom end of the official 3%–6% target range, creating room for the Bank of Botswana to cut the benchmark interest rate by 100 basis points, to 6.5%, in February, the first intervention since October 2013.
Looking at Asia, our June roster includes a report on the Philippines, where support for President Benigno Aquino is weakening, reflecting the perceived failure of policies designed to spur job creation and improve the country’s infrastructure, continuing frustration over high electricity prices (which are also affecting business costs), and internal security concerns following attacks on the police on southern islands that highlight the ongoing threat posed by Islamist militants.
Political risk is set to rise further in the coming months, as the country gears up for presidential and legislative elections in May 2016. The report will include analysis of the likely main contenders for the presidency, and how electoral considerations are likely to affect the government’s policy strategy in the near term. PRS will also examine the foreign policy risks connected to rising diplomatic tensions stemming from diputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, the strengths and vulnerabilities of government finances and the country’s financial system, and the outlook for economic growth, which slowed in the first quarter of 2015, and inflation, which has been affected by weather-related increases in food prices.
This month’s coverage of the Middle East and North Africa includes a report on Libya, where a stalemated civil conflict is solidifying the de facto partition of the nation into regions controlled by rival Islamist and secular political camps, and the daily barrage of shelling and air strikes is inflicting heavy damage on the country’s infrastructure. The report will assess the prospects for a resolution of the conflict, whether the result of a decisive military victory or a negotiated settlement, as well as the implications of a protracted war of attrition for both domestic and regional security. On the latter score, special attention will be paid to the potential for a breakdown of central authority to transform Libya into a regional base of operation for extremist groups affiliated with ISIL.
Our coverage of Asia’s emerging markets this month includes a detailed analysis of the recent troubles in Malaysia, where political stability has been shaken by corruption scandals, public protests, and internal ructions linked to a debt-ridden state investment fund that is facing selective default, all of which are contributing to public disenchantment with Prime Minister Najib Razak and his government. Our report looks at all of these issues, along with the outcome of recent by-elections, in order to assess the prospects for the stabilty of a government that is not required to renew its mandate until 2018. PRS will also look at what contractors can expect from a five-year development plan that proposes a total of $72 billion in spending to bolster an economy that has been weakened by a fall in oil prices, and discuss the likely impact of the heavy spending commitment on the fiscal and current account balances, as well as the implications for currency stability.
Our coverage of Western Europe features a new report on Greece, where a precarious debt situation is approaching a crucial point with a €3.5 billion payment to the ECB falling due in July. We will examine what it will take for the anti-austerity government to achieve an agreement with the troika of international lenders that enables the country to remain financially solvent and to continue as a fully participating member of the euro zone, and what the terms of such an agreement—or failure to reach one—will mean for investors and for the stability of the partnership between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist SYRIZA and the right-wing Independent Greeks.
Finally, our report on Portugal this month looks at the various possibilities flowing from the upcoming general election in October 2015, including whether a prospective change of government would have any material impact on the post-crisis recovery program. The analysis will include a look ahead to the budget and other policy measures that can be expected under a government headed by the Socialist Party, assessing the prospects for further deficit and debt reduction, and the future of the present government’s privatization agenda. PRS will also examine the risks and opportunties in the financial system in the wake of the unexpected failure of Banco Espirito Santo last year, and recent China-sourced acquisitions in the banking sector. Our report rounds out with an assessment of the economy, which registered moderate growth during the first quarter of the year, as well as prospects for consumer prices, external trade, and other important macro-risk indicators.
Looking at Eastern Europe, our report on Poland will analyze the near term implications of the surprise victory of the opposition candidate, Andrzej Duda, in the presidential election held in May, and what the defeat of Bronislaw Komorowski could mean for the incumbent PO’s chances of remaining in power beyond the parliamentary elections that will take place in the fall. The most recent polls show the PO trailing both the main opposition PiS and a new protest party led by a former rock musician, Pawel Kukiz, both of which are running on populist platforms that stand in stark contrast to the liberal orthodoxy of the PO.
With the trends pointing to a PiS victory, the report will examine whether opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski will be able to form a majority government, or will instead head a minority regime that relies on the informal support of other parties, possibly including the far-right KNP, to govern, and what either scenario will mean for the climate for investment and trade.