Perpetual Traveller Political Security Watch - WEEK 29, 2019

Politics, as usual, this week in this crazy world we live in.

---------- Week 29, 2019 ----------

EU clock change plan opposed by Irish cabinet

The Irish government will oppose an EU proposal that would end seasonal clock changes because it could result in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland being in different time zones. The European Commission last year announced it was planning a directive to come into effect in 2021. It would abolish the twice yearly changes, making member states decide which time zone they wanted to remain in permanently. The UK is also opposed to the proposal. A qualified majority - 55% of the member states representing at least 65% of the EU's population - is needed for the plan to be implemented. The Irish government believes it cannot agree to any move that could result in different time zones on the island of Ireland, irrespective of Brexit. It also fears that the proposed change could lead to a "patchwork" of time zones across the EU at a time when there is a lot of EU talk about the integrity of the single market. The Irish government carried out an extensive consultation that involved government departments and the public. It found that people would generally favour brighter evenings in winter, but more than 80% of those surveyed would not support any measure that created different time zones on the island. Other submissions raised concern about the effect that abolishing the time changes would have on farm life and children going to school in the dark.

United Kingdom
MPs will meet the EU's chief negotiator later to call for UK citizens' rights to be protected in a no-deal Brexit.

The cross-party delegation will meet Michel Barnier in Brussels, and be led by Tory MP Alberto Costa. He said government could protect the 3.6 million EU nationals in the UK, but did not have the power to do the same for 1.3 million UK citizens in the EU. Mr Costa said, as it stands, a no-deal Brexit would "terminate the rights of British citizens overnight". The meeting comes after MPs voted on Thursday to prevent the next prime minister from suspending Parliament in order to push through a no-deal Brexit. Four cabinet ministers, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, abstained, while 17 Tory MPs rebelled against the government. Mr Costa resigned from the government in March to put forward an amendment to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit bill, calling for her to write to the EU to demand protections for UK and EU expats' rights if there was a no-deal Brexit.

South Africa
Former president Jacob Zuma pulls out of corruption inquiry

Muzi Sikhakhane said Mr Zuma was subjected to "relentless cross-examination" and would "take no further part in the proceedings. The judge-led inquiry is investigating allegations that Mr Zuma oversaw a web of corruption during his term in office. He began testifying on Monday. The 77-year-old was forced to resign as president in February 2018. He was replaced by his then-deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who promised to tackle corruption in South Africa. Mr Zuma had been due to give a final day of testimony on Friday but the inquiry has now been adjourned. "I expected that he would cooperate," Judge Zondo said following Mr Zuma's withdrawal. "The first purpose was to give him an opportunity to tell his side of his story." The allegations against Mr Zuma focus on his relationship with the controversial Gupta family, which has been accused of influencing cabinet appointments and winning lucrative state tenders through corruption. He has also been accused of taking bribes from the logistics firm Bosasa, which is run by the Watson family. All the parties deny allegations of wrongdoing. The scandal is widely referred to as "state capture" - shorthand for a form of corruption in which businesses and politicians commandeer state assets to advance their own interests.

---------- Week 28, 2019 ----------

France’s digital tax rules the White House

It can be horribly difficult to tax tech giants’ profits. They stash their intangible capital, such as intellectual property, in tax havens, booking only low profits elsewhere. There were screaming headlines in 2018 when it was uncovered that Amazon’s British subsidiary paid £1.7m ($2.2m) in corporate tax despite revenues of $11.4bn. Rich countries have haggled over how to reform the global tax system, making progress in a number of areas, but not on taxing tech. Now France, it seems, has had enough. On July 11th it passed a bill allowing it to levy 3% on the French revenues of big internet firms—those with at least €750m ($844m) of revenue worldwide and €25m ($28m) within France.

Change of government, same old austerity

In the Greek General Election held on July 7, the conservative New Democracy party led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis returned to office with an outright majority. The Greek government must run a huge budget surplus if it is to cover future payments and interest and obtain new loans from the global market. The Syriza government thought European economic recovery would help Greece, creating the conditions to improve public services and raise pensions while still repaying creditors. However, Eurozone economic growth barely crept above 2% a year and is now slowing down again. In Greece, growth averaged little more than 1% a year under the Syriza government. Recently, after a short surge above 2%, it declined to 1.3%. And the new Conservative government takes over just as the Eurozone economies and much of the rest of the world face a slowdown in investment, trade and growth. It was a New Democracy government that presided over the financial crash and recession back in 2010. Now, the program of the Mitsotakis government is to privatize, reduce taxes for the rich and encourage foreign investment, while keeping wages and pensions low and government services to a bare minimum. The aim is to boost the profitability of Greek capital in the hope of attracting private investment, which remains very much an unknown.

India’s hunt for “illegal immigrants” is aimed at Muslims

Amit Shah, India’s home minister, calls them “termites” and “infiltrators”. The government will hunt them down and throw them into the sea, he thunders. Unfortunately, it is not just the standard bluster from a nativist politician railing against illegal immigration. Last year bureaucrats in the Indian state of Assam, which has a population of about 33m people, produced a list of more than 4m of its residents whom they consider foreigners, without any right to live there. A further 100,000 people were deemed non-citizens in June. Mr. Shah insists that all these people will be deported. In practice, neighboring Bangladesh, from which they are said to have migrated, will not accept them, since in most cases there is no evidence that they are anything other than Indians too poor and uneducated to navigate the complex bureaucracy of citizenship. But even if the threatened mass deportations never take place, the process of declaring people aliens, and hauling lots of them off to internment camps, is not only a rank injustice but also a threat to stability. The supposed illegal immigrants are overwhelmingly Muslim. The purge is, therefore, exacerbating sectarian tension in a state that saw bloody Hindu-Muslim riots as recently as 2012, when some 400,000 people were displaced. Yet Mr. Shah considers the campaign in Assam against illegal immigrants such a success that he wants to replicate it throughout the entire country.

There needs to be a deal between the European Commission and Italy

On July 8th euro-zone watchers breathed a sigh of relief. The zone’s 19 finance ministers backed the European Commission’s decision that Italy should not be penalized for allowing its public-debt burden to rise in 2018 in violation of the EU's fiscal rules. Thanks to savings of 0.4% of GDP for the current year, cobbled together by Italy’s governing coalition, a damaging confrontation seems to have been resolved. In truth, however, it has merely been postponed. The grim reality of Italy’s public finances remains unchanged. Its deficit is on course to exceed the EU's threshold of 3% of GDP in 2020, its debt is sky high and, worst of all, it is plagued by a persistent absence of growth. If Italy is to dispel the ever-present air of crisis, a much more far-sighted deal will be needed.

United Kingdom
The Brexiteers’ promise of Global Britain looks forlorn

Sir Kim Darroch resigns as Britain’s ambassador to Washington, the country’s top diplomatic post, on July 10th. His departure came days after the Mail on Sunday, a newspaper, published a selection of his cables that were highly critical of President Donald Trump and his administration. In the end, he was undone by a one-two from the West’s leading populist combo, Mr. Trump himself and his apprentice, Boris Johnson, Britain’s probable next prime minister. The former froze him out of dealing with his government, while the latter refused to back him in a televised debate on the Tory leadership contest, which Mr. Johnson is likely to win. The furor will test the “special relationship”, on which Western defense is founded, as it has not been tested for a long time. Few can remember a time when the ambassador of a close ally had been so humiliated by an American president. It has also sparked a domestic political storm. Thus, just when it should be preparing for a post-Brexit “Global Britain”, the Foreign Office finds itself fighting fires both at home and in relations with the countries it most needs to cultivate.

United Arab Emirates
UAE to allow 100% foreign ownership of maritime businesses

The United Arab Emirates is preparing a draft law that would allow foreigners to own up to 100% of businesses in the maritime industry in accordance with specific criteria, Infrastructure and Development Minister Abdullah Al Nuaimi said Sunday in Abu Dhabi. The legislation, which is expected to pass in the first half of 2020, will address areas ranging from vessel ownership to dispute resolution, according to Al Nuaimi, who’s also chairman of the UAE Federal Transport Authority. The minister referred to a cabinet decision on July 2 that allows each of the country’s seven emirates to set foreign ownership limits in various sectors. A total of 122 economic activities across 13 sectors were specified to be eligible for up to 100 percent foreign ownership, including renewable energy, space, agriculture, and manufacturing industry. The new rules essentially lifted a federal requirement that has long capped foreign ownership in local companies at 49%. The change frees the country’s seven emirates to open up their industries to foreign investors, many of whom demand full control over their operations. Economic free zones sprang up across Dubai and much of the UAE as a way to satisfy foreign companies that couldn’t fully own businesses onshore.

---------- Week 27, 2019 ----------

Political and financial interests remain at loggerheads over the future China's Cosco Shipping’s investment plan for Piraeus, one of the leading Mediterranean leading container ports.

Investment in the fast expanding Greek port of Piraeus was the focus of a high-profile and multi-party meeting between the Chinese multinational's leadership, the visiting mayor of Shanghai, Ying Yong, the newly re-elected administration of the port city, and other interested parties. The meeting and high-level contacts come after the Cosco-controlled Piraeus Port Authority's (PPA) $675m investment master plan continued to face obstacles and resistance from both the Greek government and local entities. Opposition has intensified to Cosco's plan to upgrade and expand the ship repair services within the port area as well as to the proposed building of a high-end shopping mall, luxury hotels and a new logistics hub within the port's premises. Re-elected Piraeus mayor Yannis Moralis said his administration wants to improve cooperation with Cosco, but also wants the Chinese controlled port authority to deepen its ties with local society and business interests. Cosco acquired a 40-year concession for the port, although the left wing government was an opponent of any privatisation, when it was in opposition. The latest meeting follows the PPA's decision to tell the Shipping Ministry affiliated committee tasked with port development and planning, that it will not submit a modified master plan, after members of the latter requested changes ­ a development more-or-less expected with a general election in Greece scheduled for 7 July. Cosco-led PPA has been in negotiations with the government during the past two years over its ambitious master plan, with still no resolution in sight. With a clear lead in the opinion polls the conservative New Democracy has vowed to move the development of Piraeus forward. Its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, addressing supporters in the western port city of Patras, said the clearance of hurdles concerning Cosco's investments in Piraeus were among the first two ministerial decisions in a New Democracy government.

Urban centers: Continue to avoid all gatherings as political situation normalizes

The Malagasy Constitutional Court (HCC) on 2 July released the official results of the 27 May legislative elections, confirming President Andry Rajoelina’s IRD platform majority, securing 84 of 151 seats. Rajoelina's rival, former president Marc Ravalomanana (in office 2002-2009) and his I Love Madagascar (TIM) party obtained 16 seats. Earlier on 2 July, Ravalomanana declared his party as part of the opposition, thus opening the possibility of contesting political decisions legally. While he has not called for protests or renewed allegations of electoral fraud, spontaneous demonstrations by TIM or minority party supporters may still occur over alleged electoral irregularities.

Urban centers: Continue to exercise caution, avoid protests over disputed general elections

Exercise caution and avoid all protests related to the recent general elections. The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) civil society group held nationwide gatherings on 4 July calling for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah over alleged polling irregularities, which she denies. The demonstrations were largely peaceful but there were some reports of looting in the capital Lilongwe and clashes between rival political supporters in the commercial capital Blantyre (Southern region). Further nationwide demonstrations were planned for 5 July amid a heightened security force presence. The police often use tear gas to disperse demonstrations, posing incidental risks to bystanders.

Geneva: planned protest against visiting Cameroonian president on 6 July

A planned protest against Cameroonian President, Paul Biya, who were visiting the city. Participants gathered outside the Palais des Nations UN office. A related demonstration on 29 June resulted in clashes near Palais des Nations and the InterContinental hotel, where Biya was staying. The crowds were dispersed by the police with tear gas and water cannons. Any further such unrest would pose incidental risks to bystanders. Biya has been criticised for making regular, lengthy visits to Geneva while violence linked to ongoing Anglophone insurgency continues in Cameroon's Northwest and Southwest regions.

United Kingdom
Police Scotland is to reactivate its Brexit contingency plans more than two months before the UK is due to leave the EU.

Some 300 officers had been due to be on standby from the middle of October to deal with any disruption resulting from the UK's departure on 31 October. These officers will now be available from early August, the force has said. It said this was because it was facing an "unprecedented number of large-scale events". The force said these included the Greenpeace campaigners who occupied an oil rig in the Cromarty Firth and recent demonstrations mounted by climate change protesters in Edinburgh. The allocated officers will respond to any issues that may arise across the country as a result of Brexit, such as protests and disruption at ports. But while on standby, they will also be used to support other policing operations across the country, including demonstrations and major football matches. Police Scotland has already informed the Scottish Police Authority of the change in its plans, with officers also being notified about changes to their shifts.

---------- Week 26, 2019 ----------

La Guajira department: Expect disruption, avoid protests related to ongoing indefinite strike

Expect road travel disruption and avoid protests related to an ongoing indefinite strike by various groups. The strike is being observed to demand that the government address various grievances, including road conditions and access to drinking water. Protesters have blocked roads connecting La Guajira to Cesar department in Albania, Barrancas, Cuestecitas, Distraccion, Fonseca, Hatonuevo, San Juan del Cesar and Villanueva. On the first day of the strike on 25 June, clashes occurred between demonstrators and the police in Fonseca.

Labe: A rival demonstrations on 30 June over proposed constitutional reform

A rival demonstrations by supporters and opponents of President Alpha Conde are linked to possible constitutional reform that would allow Conde to stand for a third term. Supporters of opposition parties and civil society organisations gathered for an anti-reform rally at Hoggo Mbouro, before proceeding to the Saifoullaye Diallo Stadium. However, a pro-Conde group reportedly plans to hold a rally on the same route.
Jakarta, other urban centres: Avoid potential gatherings related to court verdict on contested elections

Members in the capital Jakarta and other urban centres should avoid all gatherings related to a 27 June Constitutional Court verdict. The court rejected opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s legal challenge to the victory of incumbent President Joko Widodo in the 17 April elections. While no protests have been formally planned, related gatherings were possible on 28 June after Friday midday prayers. Potential venues include key government buildings in Jakarta and other urban centres such as Medan (North Sumatra province) and Mataram (West Nusa Tenggara province).

Urban centers: Continue to avoid protests against presidential election results due to the risk of unrest

Continue to avoid all protests over the results of the 22 June presidential election due to the risk of unrest. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) party won with 52% of the vote. Biram Dah Abeid of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement came second with 19%. Although a banned opposition protest in the capital Nouakchott on 27 June passed off peacefully, further such demonstrations should be avoided as the situation remains tense.

Urban centres: Continue to avoid all gatherings linked to 30 June local elections; land borders were closed on polling day

Continue to anticipate and avoid all gatherings linked to the 30 June municipal elections, as a precaution. The country’s land borders with Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana are due to be closed and members travelling to or from the country by land should plan journeys accordingly.

---------- Week 25, 2019 ----------

Will a trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU finally come true?

After almost a quarter of a century of negotiations, and in the midst of a worldwide protectionist wave, the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) and the European Union (EU) once again appear close to signing a trade agreement. There have been times before this, though, when everything appeared on track only to have the final negotiations go off the rails. But unlike previous occasions, this time there are some reasons for the parties to accelerate the negotiations to conclude an agreement soon: namely, the presidential elections in Argentina and Uruguay in October 2019 and the arrival of new EU commissioners.

Exercise caution, avoid protests ahead of 11 August presidential run-off vote

Exercise caution and avoid all protests linked to the results of the 16 June general election. As the presidential poll produced no clear winner, the top two candidates will proceed into a run-off vote on 11 August. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) on 20 June announced that it would conduct a total vote recount from 24 June in light of electoral fraud complaints. Violent election-related protests were reported overnight on 16-17 June in several areas, and sporadic clashes have persisted in recent days. Developments related to the vote recount could trigger further disturbances.

Anticipate heightened security, avoid demonstrations related to ongoing political crisis

Anticipate heightened security and avoid all opposition- and labour union-led demonstrations due to the risk of unrest. Protesters overnight on 19-20 June blocked roads with rocks and burning tyres in several parts of the country, including the capital Tegucigalpa and the commercial capital San Pedro Sula (Cortes department). In response, President Juan Orlando Hernandez on 20 June said that additional security force and military personnel would be deployed countrywide.

West Bengal: Exercise caution due to potential for further politically motivated violence

At least two people were killed and five others injured in clashes between rival groups on 20 June in Bhatpara (North 24 Parganas district, West Bengal state). The violence involved the use of crude bombs and live ammunition. The police used tear gas to disperse the groups. Reports indicate that the clashes involved supporters of the state ruling All India Trimanool Congress (TMC) and the federal ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Members in urban centres of West Bengal should exercise caution due to the potential for further politically motivated violence and leave an area at the first sign of unrest.

Continue to exercise caution, avoid protests linked to disputed general election

Opposition parties have alleged irregularities and filed a petition for the annulment of the presidential poll, won by incumbent Peter Mutharika. The Constitutional Court was due to rule on this matter on 21 June. The security forces on 20 June used tear gas to disperse related protests in the commercial capital Blantyre (Southern region) and Mzuzu (Northern region). Further demonstrations have been threatened until the election results are overturned.

Avoid all gatherings linked to 22 June presidential election

Members in Mauritania should avoid all gatherings linked to the 22 June presidential election, as a precaution. Campaigning ended on 20 June. The poll will proceed amid tensions over the economic and political situation. As such, heightened security can be expected in the capital Nouakchott and other major cities.

Expect, avoid further protests in coming days over arrest of former president

Expect and avoid further protests over the 10 June arrest of Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair and former Pakistani president (in office 2008-13), on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. The PPP hold rallies in Nawabshah (Sindh province) on 21 June, when Zardari is set to appear before the Accountability Court in the capital Islamabad. Roads between the court and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) are liable to be closed off during the hearing, as a security measure.

Anticipate, avoid gatherings linked to 21 July snap parliamentary election
Anticipate and avoid gatherings linked to the 21 July snap parliamentary election. Campaigning began on 24 May after President Volodymyr Zelensky’s early dissolution of the parliament. Official rallies and unauthorised demonstrations are likely to increase in frequency and attendance as election day approaches. Members should avoid all related gatherings due to the potential for low-level unrest.

United Kingdom
Theresa May resignation: How the UK's next prime minister will be chosen
After 1,059 days in charge, Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down as leader of the ruling Conservative Party. She will stay on as prime minister until a replacement is found but that search is well under way. During her time as prime minister, Theresa May failed to complete her most important task: delivering Brexit. The UK's departure date has been delayed to 31 October and, faced with mounting pressure in her ranks, Mrs May announced her departure. The race for her place has already started. With 11 contenders, it's a crowded field. Boris Johnson, a colourful and well known figure in the UK, is the current favourite. He is a former foreign secretary and London mayor. The winner needs the backing of both Conservative MPs and ordinary party members. To be nominated, candidates need the signatures of eight fellow MPs. They are then whittled down to two in a series of secret votes by Conservative MPs. The contest ends in a vote open to those who have paid to be members of the Tory Party. About 160,000 people will be choosing the next leader of a country of more than 65 million people. Most party members are over 55 and a large majority are from the top social class. The winner of the contest - and new prime minister - will be announced in the week of 22 July.

---------- Week 24. 2019 ----------

Central African Republic
Bangui: Anti-government rally on 15 June at UCATEX stadium
An opposition rally by supporters of the opposition E Zingo Biani (EZB) coalition was due to proceed in defiance of an official ban. The event was held in protest at the February peace deal between the government and 14 rebel groups. EZB claims the signatories to the agreement are colluding for electoral gain. There were potential for unrest if the security forces attempt to enforce the ban on the gathering.

Tbilisi: Avoid disruptive gathering outside Government Chancellery building
Avoid the vicinity of an ongoing disruptive gathering outside Chancellery of the Government of Georgia. Reports suggest that protesters opposed to a small ongoing rally by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists have clashed with the police as well as rival activists. Several people have been arrested.

Haiti: Port-au-Prince
Avoid anti-government protests 
Planned anti-government demonstrations with risk of unrest. Demonstrators on 13 June hurled stones at the security forces and set up roadblocks around the National Palace, causing traffic disruption in the area. Protesters were calling for President Jovenel Moise to step down over the alleged misuse of funds from the regional Petrocaribe energy scheme.

Hong Kong
Avoid protests against extradition bill ahead of parliamentary vote on 20 June
A fresh mass march against a bill that would facilitate extraditions to mainland China is planned for 16 June at 14.30 (local time) from Victoria Park Causeway Bay area to the Legislative Council(LegCo) building. 
Additionally, the Civil Human Rights Front Hong Kong (CHRF) group has called a strike on 17 June.

Jakarta: A high-profile election hearing at Constitutional Court on 14 June; heightened security
The court is expected to decide whether to accept the legal challenge submitted by opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subiantoon 24 May. Additional security personnel are deployed in and around the court building. Road closures and diversions were also expected.

Urban centres: Anticipate, avoid all gatherings around local elections scheduled for 30 June
Avoid all gatherings ahead of local elections on 30 June due to the potential for unrest. Campaigning will take place on 14-28 June, during which time related protests are likely. Opposition rallies may be banned by the authorities and any attempts by the security forces to disperse gatherings will likely result in violence, posing incidental risks to bystanders.

United Kingdom
Britain’s Labour Party has tried to appeal to everyone on Brexit—and failed
When the last of the ballots had finally been counted in the recent European Parliament elections, it became abundantly clear that one of the biggest losers was Britain’s Labour Party, and its Brexit strategy most of all. The party finished in third place, behind both Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the ardently pro-Remain Liberal Democrats, with a mere 14.1 percent of the total vote. If the results are anything to go by, then Labour’s attempts to appeal to both Leavers and Remainers by being as ambiguous as possible about Brexit have actually had the opposite effect and alienated both sides of this deep divide in the United Kingdom. Although the Brexit Party was the big winner of the night, topping the polls with 31.6 percent and winning every region in England except London, Farage’s outfit fell 8.8 points short of the combined total accrued by parties seeking to overturn the 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union. This may not serve as resounding proof that the national consensus on Brexit has shifted, but it does show that the country is still irreparably polarized and that those politicians who advocate compromise appeal to the smallest of constituencies.