South Africa’s ruling ANC party launched its manifesto last week, but the background for the event was worrying for party leaders.
Polls indicate that 2024’s general election, scheduled for 29 May, could see the ANC get below 50 per cent of the vote for the first time since 1994 – bringing about multi-party government for the first time. That will be a significant inflection point for South Africans, and for the region.
But progress towards democratic pluralism would be a fulfilment of South Africa’s constitution, which imagined a more diverse political landscape, and is intentionally structured around quasi-federalist political institutions and consociationalism.… Seguir leyendo »
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared on 25 February that Israel ‘will keep attacking Lebanon regardless of what happens in Gaza’ – and indeed mutual strikes by Israel and Hezbollah are continuing.
Fighting between the two sides began in the aftermath of Hamas’ assault on Israel on 7 October, with Hezbollah being the first to attack Israel on another front.
Although Hezbollah has celebrated some military successes over the past four months, the war in Gaza is testing its strategic capability. Despite being the instigator of the fight, Hezbollah is not setting the agenda. Its main priority is survival rather than victory.… Seguir leyendo »
Africa witnessed a spate of cyberattacks in 2023, against African Union Commission (AUC) systems, Kenyan government data systems, and Nigerian election infrastructure among others.
The attacks seem to have served as a wake-up call for the AU, driving its Peace and Security Council (PSC) to make cybersecurity a key agenda point at this year’s summit, held in Addis Ababa.
Real achievements were made: African heads of state addressed a number of cybersecurity related matters – the first notable action on the issue since the AU created its Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (DTS) in February 2020.
At the summit the AUC was directed to expedite the development of a Continental Cybersecurity Strategy.… Seguir leyendo »
Consumer prices in China have now fallen in five out of the last seven months, and the annual inflation rate fell to minus 0.8 per cent in January.
There is a growing risk that deflation and weak economic activity might aggravate each other, creating a kind of ‘doom loop’: prices fall because demand is weak, and demand stays weak since Chinese households reckon it’s better to delay spending in the hope that goods and services get even cheaper.
All this should have some implications for Chinese exchange rate policy: a weaker renminbi (CNY) could raise the domestic price of imported goods by enough to help unroot China’s deflationary psychology before it really establishes itself.… Seguir leyendo »
After days of intense political bargaining following one of the most contested elections in Pakistan’s history, agreement was reached this week on a five-party minority coalition government led by former interim prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The protracted negotiations between the centre-right PML-N and the centre-left Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were complicated by a split mandate that failed – against all expectations – to produce a clear winning majority for the PML-N. Its credibility, and by extension the standing of the coalition, has been strongly challenged by former prime minister Imran Khan, leader of the Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which denounced the coalition as ‘mandate thieves’.… Seguir leyendo »
Enlargement is back. For the last decade or so, the European Union had made it clear that, while accession negotiations with several countries would continue, it did not expect any of them to actually join the bloc any time soon.
After becoming European Commission president in 2014, Jean-Claude Juncker said that no further enlargement would take place during his five-year term. Although his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, promised a ‘geopolitical’ Commission when she took over in 2019, she did not immediately signal a greater openness to enlargement.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 changed all that. Enlargement is now not just back on the EU’s agenda but has become its highest priority.… Seguir leyendo »
Alexei Navalny was the leading opponent of Vladimir Putin inside Russia – even from behind bars and often in solitary confinement.
He made his name while still a free man by unmasking the nature of the regime through corruption exposés, protests, and by trying to be a ‘normal’ politician in a system dominated by one other man.
Navalny’s death provides another, potent demonstration of the system Putin has constructed: a murderous personalist autocracy that continues to spread destruction and misery in its ongoing war on Ukraine.
We may never know the full details leading up to Navalny’s death in the ‘Polar Wolf’ prison colony within the Arctic Circle on 16 February.… Seguir leyendo »
When I had lunch with Prabowo Subianto in 2013, a year before his first, failed attempt to be elected president of Indonesia, he was still honing his fiery nationalist pitch, promising to shake up the country and prevent it becoming a failed state.
Eleven years later, the 72-year-old former general finally seems to have secured the presidency by reinventing himself as a continuity candidate, forming an unlikely alliance with the incredibly popular outgoing President Joko Widodo.
Unofficial ‘quick counts’ by respected pollsters, which are typically accurate, indicate that Prabowo won nearly 60 per cent of the vote in Indonesia’s presidential election on February 14.… Seguir leyendo »
At a recent campaign rally in South Carolina, Donald Trump appeared to invite Vladimir Putin’s Russia to invade any NATO member failing to meet the 2 per cent of GDP target for defence spending.
While his comments appeared to be popular among the MAGA crowd attending the rally, they were immediately condemned on both sides of the Atlantic.
A White House spokesperson called the comments ‘ appalling and unhinged’. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also responded in undiplomatic terms saying: ‘Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk’.… Seguir leyendo »
The dust has yet to settle on Pakistan’s election. The official results show that independent candidates aligned to the PTI – the party of Imran Khan – have performed better than anticipated despite Khan’s arrest and conviction. This belies the initial belief that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – the party of the Sharif brothers (Nawaz and Shehbaz) – would lead the next government.
The PTI and PML-N both claim victory, but neither has yet secured the requisite numbers to form a government on its own. This increases the probability that a messy coalition government is formed after an extended period of horse-trading.… Seguir leyendo »
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is rapidly approaching its second anniversary – and is not going according to plan for either side.
In a major reset that President Zelenskyy believes can change the trajectory of the conflict, he has sacked his commander-in-chief, General Valeriy Zaluzhny. After a series of disagreements, Zelenskyy has called for a ‘united approach across the whole frontline and a new vision for the war, mobilization and recruitment’.
It is a herculean task for his new chief, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky, previously commander of ground forces, given the reality of the current phase of war.
Ukraine had hoped to achieve a ‘miracle on Dnipro’ in 2023 by retaking substantial land in the south to cut Russian supplies to occupied Crimea and make the peninsula vulnerable.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2019 Vladislav Surkov, a close advisor to Putin and one of his chief ideologues, wrote: ‘Foreign politicians attribute to Russia interference in elections and referendums across the planet. In fact, the matter is even more serious – Russia is interfering in their brains, and they do not know what to do with their own altered consciousness.’
Surkov has since been disgraced, but Russia’s insidious information warfare escalated to new heights on 8 February with the broadcast of US pundit Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On X (formerly Twitter) alone, the replay has, at the time of writing, garnered over 85 million views.… Seguir leyendo »
A Reuters report on 26 January claimed that China recently attempted to nudge Iran into reining in Houthi attacks against civilian ships in the Red Sea.
However, the report created confusion about precisely what Beijing’s demands were.
The prevailing narrative has been that China asked Iran to refrain from impeding international shipping, and to abandon its strategy of linking such attacks to the war in Gaza. However, this is misleading.
Chinese interests only
China may indeed have pressed Iran in the past weeks. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters, ‘China has been making active efforts to ease tensions in the Red Sea from the very beginning.’… Seguir leyendo »
Nobody wanted a long war in Ukraine. Russia didn’t plan for it, and the West wasn’t prepared for it.
Ukraine and its Western partners had dared to hope that the successes of autumn 2022 might cause Russia’s army to implode. There was similar vain hope that the late Yevgeny Prigozhin’s coup of June 2023 would succeed – or at least weaken the Kremlin’s grip on its war. These hopes proved naïve.
Russia, meanwhile, expected a short victorious war of weeks if not days, one that would barely be felt by its population, except to glory in the defeat of Zelenskyy and his ‘Nazi regime’.… Seguir leyendo »
On 7 February Azerbaijan will go to the polls in a snap presidential election called by President Ilham Aliyev in December.
President since 2003, Aliyev is seeking re-election for a fifth term of seven years (the length of presidential terms introduced by referendum in 2016) to 2031, when he will turn 70. A previous referendum in 2009 abolished the limit to the number of terms a president can serve.
The election campaign has yielded no surprises in a political system which scholars have defined as a hegemonic variant of authoritarianism. The campaign has featured a performative pluralism, in which multiple candidates – generally figures not well known to the public – participate, but are united in their praise of the incumbent, who does not himself campaign.… Seguir leyendo »
During an extraordinary summit in Brussels on 1 February, all 27 EU heads of state finally agreed a €50 billion (£43bn) support package for Ukraine through the Ukraine Facility, a new funding instrument. This is good news for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and his administration who desperately need this money to keep the Ukrainian state running and pay wages to staff. The show of unity is also good news for the EU.
To be distributed over the next four years, the support package will consist of grants (€17 billion) and guaranteed loans (€33 billion). The financial grants will come from the revised 2021-27 European multiannual financial framework and should be approved by the European Parliament later this month.… Seguir leyendo »
Pakistan faces formidable economic and political challenges, but without a credible result in the elections scheduled for 8 February it stands little chance of overcoming them. The repercussions could extend beyond Pakistan’s borders, affecting regional stability and increasing pressure on Western governments as a growing number of Pakistanis leave their country in search of a more secure future abroad.
Questions about the integrity of the polls come amid widespread allegations of interference in the electoral process by Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, said to be keen to engineer its preferred outcome.
The military is reported to be working in concert with the judiciary to keep former prime minister – and its former protégé – Imran Khan, out of the elections.… Seguir leyendo »
Fear struck across Europe, a continent that is home to more than 746 million people, as just over 300,000 voters in a small state in the upper northeast corner of the United States delivered a resounding 11-point victory for former president Donald Trump. With the result in the New Hampshire primary contest, the hope that Nikki Haley could turn the tide and bring a degree of normalcy back to the Republican Party quickly collapsed.
Trump may have been victorious in New Hampshire, but he did not disguise his ire that Nikki Haley had dared to stay in that race after their other rivals withdrew.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, Russia unilaterally terminated a Finnish-Russian border agreement dating back to 2012. While this move is largely symbolic as the agreement was suspended following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, it nonetheless demonstrates Russia’s willingness to escalate tensions with its neighbour along its northernmost boundary with the EU and NATO.
It is the culmination of a period of instability on the border. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to an exodus of Russian nationals seeking to avoid conscription into the war effort – leaving via the Finnish border and other crossing points. Moscow responded by tightening its border controls to stem the flow.… Seguir leyendo »
Following the Republican primary result in New Hampshire this week, Canada is not the only country bracing for Donald Trump’s possible return to the White House – but few have more at stake.
Three-quarters of Canada’s goods exports, accounting for more than one-quarter of the country’s gross domestic product, go to the US. Given Trump’s impulsiveness and deeply protectionist instincts, Canada’s business and political leaders are understandably nervous.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who bears the scars of dealing with the first Trump administration, sought to reassure a Montreal audience earlier this month. ‘ It wasn’t easy the first time,’ he said, referring to Trump’s first presidential term, ‘and if there is a second time, it won’t be easy either… [but] we’ll be ready for the decision Americans make in November.’… Seguir leyendo »