Tag Archives: elections

Protesters to remain steadfast on remaining demands, will influence November’s District Council elections – Hong Kong Analysis

Executive Summary

Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked emergency legislation on October 4 to ban the use of masks during all protests in the city, a month after she formally announced the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill.

The significant escalation in protest tactics and forceful dispersal methods has resulted in a deterioration in all-around security in Hong Kong, while the protest lobby will continue to pressure the government to address all five of their demands.

The discovery of an IED in Mong Kok on October 13 for the first time during the ongoing wave of protests is highly notable. Despite its isolated nature, the incident is likely to be used by authorities to further justify a more heavy-handed crackdown on protesters, including mass arrests, over the coming weeks.

The anti-government campaign is liable to impact the upcoming District Council polls, slated for November, with election-related violence anticipated in the coming weeks.

Travel to Hong Kong can continue while adhering to security precautions regarding civil unrest, and avoiding the vicinity of all protests.

Current Situation

Hong Kong authorities officially withdrew the contentious extradition bill, via a statement by Secretary for Security John Lee at the Legislative Council (LegCo) on October 23. The move follows Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement of the bill’s complete withdrawal on September 4 after it sparked anti-government protests since March. CE Lam also announced a ban on the use of masks in all protests by invoking emergency legislation on October 4.

Notable recent developments have included a significant uptick in protest tactics as well as police dispersal methods in the months of September and October. The most recent was a low-level IED explosion in Mong Kok during a protest in the area, during which demonstrators also threw at least 20 petrol bombs at the Mong Kok Police Station. Further, October 1 and 4 saw two separate instances of young protesters being shot by police personnel.

The US House of Representatives passed three pieces of legislation in support of Hong Kong on October 15. These include the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which seeks an annual review of Hong Kong’s autonomy and the city’s special treatment as a separate trade entity if it becomes law. The second measure, the Protect Hong Kong Act, seeks to ban the commercial exports of military and crowd-control equipment that the police could use against protesters. The third measure passed by the House is a non-binding resolution recognizing Hong Kong’s relationship with the US, supporting the residents’ right to vote, and condemning China’s alleged interference in their domestic affairs.

Key Events in Anti-government Protests in Hong Kong

Assessments and Forecast

Escalation in violence, increased confrontations despite bill’s withdrawal signals entrenched position of protesters 

Recent tactics adopted by both the security forces and anti-government protesters, mainly consisting of Hong Kong’s youth, represent notable escalations. The first instances of protesters being shot by police forces have thus far aggravated radical groups and have sustained their use of more violent means of protests in recent weeks. FORECAST: The continuation of demonstrations despite CE Lam’s announcement of the formal withdrawal of the bill shows how the movement has evolved into a larger anti-government campaign, and as such, shows no signs of quelling in the near term.

Status if Demands by Anti-government Protesters

The introduction of the anti-mask law by emergency legislation served to further antagonize protesters against CE Lam. It also raised concerns about further restrictions on freedoms and the potential implementation of a full emergency in the city.  While this latter measure is less likely in the immediate term, sustained protest violence may be used to justify the usage of increased emergency measures in the long term, as was witnessed with the anti-mask regulation. Calls for CE Lam’s resignation are expected to continue gaining traction in the near term, evidenced by pan-democrats’ heckling of CE Lam during her policy address on October 16.

Vandalism, arson, and the use of petrol bombs can be expected with continued frequency by radical anti-government groups. The slightly diminished participation in protests may be attributed to various reasons. This may include the disengagement of more moderate groups who have now been placated by the withdrawal of the extradition bill or those driven away by the increase in violent protest tactics. Despite these factors, local solidarity with the anti-government campaign as a whole appears unlikely to abate, signaled by moderate groups dubbing their radical counterparts as “the braves” for continuing the movement. Specific incidents of escalation, such as the alleged police excesses or the use of live rounds to disperse protesters, may prompt a sudden spike in turnouts at rallies, especially on the weekends.

Authorities likely expected the extradition bill’s complete withdrawal to placate the protest movement. Instead, the withdrawal emboldened participating groups to continue pushing for their four remaining demands, likely due to perceptions that the withdrawal of the bill was a result of the pressure they put on the government. This continuation of protests has likely informed the increased intensity of forceful dispersal measures witnessed in the aftermath of the bill’s withdrawal. FORECAST: Police are liable to continue with this approach, using tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and bean bag rounds, with the latent risk of isolated incidents involving live ammunition usage in the near term. The increasing frequency of MTR cancellations ahead of protests appear to have also created perceptions among protesters that the MTR corporation is siding with the police by restricting protesters’ movement. As such, MTR stations are likely to continue to remain hotspots, especially for acts of arson and vandalism.

The discovery of an IED in Mong Kok on October 13 for the first time during the ongoing wave of protests is highly notable, although it appears to have been crudely constructed and caused limited damage with no injuries. FORECAST: Nevertheless, the incident is likely to be used by authorities to further justify a more heavy-handed crackdown on protesters, including mass arrests, over the coming weeks. An increase in the deployment of riot police is also expected city-wide. However, it is unlikely that IED attacks will become commonplace in Hong Kong, as the aforementioned instance appears to have been an isolated event.

Anti-government campaign liable to inform trends in upcoming election

The protesters’ recent targeting of Chinese-owned banks and businesses in the city further highlights heightened anti-Beijing sentiments, which has largely energized the clashes between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing individuals in Hong Kong. FORECAST: This may further deepen social polarization within the city, especially ahead of the November District Council elections. Pro-democracy lawmakers may attempt to capitalize on current sentiments to gain visibility for their campaigns, potentially by staging election rallies during or close to predetermined anti-government events.

Voter turnout and support for these groups may see an uptick as smaller pro-democracy parties draw support by association with the protests. Turnouts in the election are liable to be high, based on the record number of citizens enrolled to vote. Incidents of election-related violence are also likely, potentially targeting pro-government lawmakers and their offices. This risk pertains to pan-democrat candidates as well, evidenced thus far in the October 16 attack on CHRF convenor and Lek Yuen constituency candidate Jimmy Sham.

FORECAST: Precedence suggests that the government will enforce stringent electoral rules to exclude pan-democrat candidates. This was witnessed in the barring of pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong, per an October 29 announcement. Authorities may also attempt to disqualify elected pro-democracy representatives following the polls. Such moves will exacerbate anti-government sentiment, potentially spurring a new wave of rallies or violence in the aftermath of the elections. Another trigger that could instigate such unrest is the cancellation of polls in specific areas due to security concerns. This is likely as such a move would be perceived as a rejection of protesters’ demand for universal suffrage.

FORECAST: Though the District Council polls are not expected to significantly impact the shaping of the Legislative Council, they will inform representation in the committee that selects the city’s chief executive. This is significant considering protesters’ calls for incumbent CE Lam’s resignation. While such a result is less likely at present, pan-democrats will seek to maximize poll participation in order to ultimately bolster their committee representation. In this light, Beijing will monitor the elections closely and may push to escalate the local government’s crackdown on pan-democrat candidates or their camp as a whole in the months that follow. This is especially likely in preparation for the Legislative Council elections set to occur in 2020.

Assult Incidents on Pro-democracy Activist

China may use punitive trade measures to discourage international support, risk of direct military intervention still low

The month of October saw China exerting its influence on US-based businesses that were perceived as supporting the protest movement in Hong Kong. The developments underscore China’s economic influence on US-based businesses by virtue of its large market access, especially those perceived to take an anti-China stance. This is bolstered by multiple Chinese businesses dropping sponsorship deals with a large US-based sporting franchise over perceived support for the protests.

FORECAST: The US House of Representatives’ votes in favor of several pieces of legislation to support Hong Kong on October 15 are likely to embolden pro-democracy demonstrators, especially as the votes coincided with a mass protest in Hong Kong in support of the legislation. The passage of these bills may be raised at ongoing trade talks between the US and China, as Beijing condemns Washington for interfering in affairs it views as domestic.  CE Lam’s recent statements that the administration will not hesitate to take Beijing’s assistance in quelling protests is likely a form of signaling; as such, direct intervention by the Chinese government or security forces still remains less likely in the immediate term. However, the level of security cooperation between Beijing’s security establishment and the Hong Kong police is expected to increase as protests sustain for the foreseeable future.

US Legislation in Support of Hong Kong

Recommendations

Travel to Hong Kong can continue while adhering to security precautions regarding civil unrest, crime, and protests.

Those operating or residing in Hong Kong are advised to avoid all travel near protests and further maintain heightened vigilance throughout the city due to the potential for continued demonstrations and the unrest. This may include the use of teargas and rubber bullets by police, incendiary objects such as petrol bombs, or the throwing of bricks and projectiles by protesters.

Avoid the vicinity of police stations, checkpoints, or other security installations as they are being increasingly targeted with arson attacks or vandalism in the latest wave of protests. This is particularly likely after multiple arrests occur at protest rallies.

Maintain particular vigilance around government buildings on Hong Kong Island, which are often used as protest sites, such as the LegCo Building, Central Government Complex, Hong Kong Police Headquarters, and Chief Executive’s Office.

Minimize nonessential travel to sensitive areas where the propensity for violence is greater at present. These primarily include Tin Shui Wai, Ma On Shan, Sha Tin, and Sheung Shui in the New Territories; Tsim Sha Tsui, Sham Shui Po, and the West Kowloon Train Station in Kowloon; and North Point in the Eastern District of Hong Kong Island.

Allot for disruptions if taking the MRT service given that authorities are known to close off specific lines to prevent protesters’ movements, especially during multiple simultaneous demonstrations across the city.

Avoid carrying any sensitive material either on electronic devices or clothing that puts forward controversial political opinions, particularly anti-Beijing stances, when crossing over by land due to the heightened security checks.

MAX Security has strong on-ground capabilities for executive protection and facilitating business travel to Hong Kong. For contingency plans and on-ground operational support, contact us at [email protected] or +44 20-3540-0434.

Presidential primary to be held amid heightened polarization; Macri likely to win re-election in second round – Argentina Analysis

Written by Federico Sujarchuk 

Executive Summary

The Presidential primary will be held on August 11 prior to the general election for the president, vice-president, National Congress, and the governors of several provinces.

President Mauricio Macri and former President Cristina Kirchner’s choice of running mates reflect the decline of the moderate Peronist opposition, the third largest political force in the country.

Macri’s decision to pick Peronist Senator Pichetto as running mate is likely to bolster his electoral chances and ability to govern.

Kirchner’s decision to run for the vice-presidency and choose Alberto Fernandez as her presidential candidate is unlikely to bolster her chances of winning.

Mandatory primary election likely to soften the expected lead of the Fernandez-Kirchner presidential ticket in the first round of the elections.

FORECAST: Macri likely to win re-election in second round, though Kirchner camp may regain control of most populous Buenos Aires province.

2019 General Elections

Mandatory primary elections are slated to take place on August 11. In this system, which is known as Primarias Abiertas Simultaneas y Obligatorias (PASO), all coalitions run primary elections in the same general polls. All coalitions must take part, both the coalitions with internal factions and coalitions with a single candidacy list.

On October 27, general elections will be held to elect the country’s president, vice-president, members of the National Congress, and the governors of several provinces.

The election of the presidential ticket will be conducted under the ballotage system, a modified version of the two-round system. A candidate can win the presidency in a single round by either winning 45% of the vote, or if they win 40% of the vote while finishing 10 percentage points ahead of the second-place candidate. If no candidate meets either threshold, a runoff on November 24 will take place between the top two candidates.

The candidates and parties taking part in the primaries are as follows:

Argentina Elections Grid

Background

The announcement of the main presidential tickets comes amid a marked deterioration in the economic situation in Argentina over the last year, partly due to a costly drought in the country’s farm belt during 2018 and a sharp increase in the price of financing for emerging countries whose economies have some characteristics of a developed economy but do not satisfy all of the standards. This situation has fostered a significant devaluation of the Argentinian Peso, which was one of the world’s worst-performing currencies in 2018 and lost 37 percent of its value in relation to the US dollar over the last 12 months. This situation, in turn, exacerbated the country’s inflation, which is expected to reach a rate of 39 percent in 2019. This financial situation prompted President Macri to request a 57 billion USD standby loan from the IMF on September 2018 and accept the fund’s required cuts to public spending.

Since then, President Macri’s approval rating fell significantly and has been largely tied to the value of the Argentine Peso in relation to the US dollar. This is due to the close relationship between this particular macroeconomic factor and the country’s inflation problem, which has consistently ranked in recent years as the most pressing issue for the majority of the electorate, higher in the list than other notable concerns such as security and public corruption. Meanwhile, former President Cristina Kirchner has been slowly but consistently rising in the polls in spite of her alleged involvement in a number of high-profile corruption cases.

Marci Popularity VS Peso Stability

Assessments & Forecast

Macri and Kirchner’s choice of running mates reflect the sizeable decline of moderate Peronist opposition

It is notable that both Kichner’s presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez and Macri’s vice presidential candidate Miguel Angel Pichetto, while not particularly well-known, are prominent political figures among the traditional Peronist movement. This movement is largely made up of provincial governors and senators, mayors of the municipalities of Buenos Aires Province, and union figures. It should be noted that in Argentina, provincial governors play a key role in nominating congressional candidates and thus are crucial to lawmaking, and, therefore, to governability. As such, Kirchner and Macri’s choices of running mates were both likely envisioned as attempts to lure as many of the aforementioned actors as possible, who had until recently been the main backers of the moderate Peronist opposition, and are now starting to back either the Kirchner or Macri camps. This is because the governors and mayors fear that the weakening of the moderate Peronist camp could threaten their own chances of re-election.

Moreover, that a prominent figure of the Peronist camp, Sergio Massa, who finished third with 21.4 percent of the vote in the 2015 general elections, announced that he was joining the Kirchner camp as the first candidate for their coalition in the Lower House further supports this assessment. That said, that Massa’s base has traditionally been more anti-Kirchner than anti-Macri and thus his return to the Kirchner camp, having been Kirchner’s Cabinet Chief, is unlikely to prompt a significant portion of his base to vote for the Fernandez-Kirchner ticket.

FORECAST: The moderate Peronist opposition is likely to see the biggest losses of the 2019 general elections, with recent polls indicating they will receive less than half of the votes that Massa gained in 2015. That said, this heightened polarization is unlikely to affect other candidates’ polling, at least until the August 11 primary election.

Ideological Position of Canidates

President Macri’s decision to pick Senator Pichetto as running mate is likely to bolster his electoral chances and governability in a potential second term

Macri’s decision is advantageous not because Pichetto is a particularly popular or well-known figure but rather because of his close relationship with Peronist governors from swing provinces such as Cordoba and Santa Fe, who are likely to discreetly campaign for the Macri camp. This will help boost support among governors, which was already fostered by the federal government upholding financial commitments to the provinces under Macri regardless of their political leanings, a policy which was not sustained under the Kirchner administrations.

Moreover, Pichetto’s influence in the Upper House could offer Macri the ability to pass substantial economic reforms in a second term. This situation, coupled with Pichetto’s reputation as pro-market, evidenced by the fact that he was a key player in allowing Macri to secure a deal with holders of Argentine sovereign bonds in 2016, has had a positive effect on the country’s financial sector and the international markets in recent weeks. This, in turn, is aiding Macri’s anti-inflationary program, which means that the main macroeconomic variables are more likely to remain stable or even slightly improve in the run-up to the elections. Furthermore, since the announcement of the Macri-Pichetto ticket the Argentine Peso gained ten percent of its value in relation to the US Dollar, its largest appreciation since 2002.

Cristina Kirchner’s decision to pick Alberto Fernandez as presidential candidate and run for vice-president unlikely to bolster chances

There are two main reasons that Kirchner taking the vice-president position is unlikely to significantly bolster her chances. Firstly, there are perceptions that Kirchner hinted towards a centrist turn in previous electoral campaigns that never materialized when it came to policy. For example, in the 2007 electoral campaign, she chose a Union Civica Radical (UCR) party member as her running mate and repeatedly claimed her intentions to improve relations with the US, policies which many believe were never enacted. As such, undecided voters are likely to be wary of this new, allegedly more moderate version of Cristina Kirchner. Furthermore, various comments from influential supporters of Kirchner indicating support for modifying the constitution, abolishing the current structure of the judiciary, and freeing politicians jailed in recent corruption cases, could give further weight to these concerns. That said, as previously assessed, Kirchner’s decision to nominate a more moderate Peronist will help boost support of some actors of the traditional Peronist movement, who may bring votes with them. In this regard, the same day the Fernandez-Kirchner ticket was announced eight provincial governors pledged their support.

Secondly, Cristina Kirchner’s decision to run for vice president may end up playing in Macri’s favor. This is because her decision to run for the vice-presidency, rather than the presidency, as well as her overtures to the political center, has eased concerns over the potential impact on the economy. This, in turn, has helped stabilize the economy somewhat, improving Macri’s position, as he typically does better in polls when the economy improves.

Mandatory primary election likely to soften Fernandez-Kirchner’s expected lead in first round

FORECAST: Going forward the Fernandez-Kirchner ticket is likely to sustain a lead over President Macri in the primary and first round, due to the decline of the economy, the ideological closeness of the majority of the smaller leading candidates to the ruling Cambiemos coalition, and their potential to shift votes away from Macri. That said, if Kirchner gains a significant advantage over Macri in the primary, it is likely that some voters who were considering other candidates with a comparable platform to Cambiemos will end up voting for Macri in the first round, fearing that the Fernandez-Kirchner ticket could win outright in a single election.

Average Polling of Canidates (%)

Kirchner camp likely to regain control over Buenos Aires Province

FORECAST: A victory for the Kirchner camp in the Buenos Aires Province, the most populated in the country, seems more plausible, as there is no second round, making Kirchner’s larger support base in the region potentially enough to see Kirchner’s gubernatorial candidate, Axel Kicillof, succeed. Furthermore, the declining economic situation, which has been particularly severe in the province, suggests that the Kirchner camp will regain control. That said, the popularity of the current Buenos Aires provincial governor, Maria Eugenia Vidal, who belongs to Macri’s Propuesta Republicana (PRO), may see her return for a second term. However, should the Kirchner camp regain the province, it could become a base to challenge Macri’s economic reforms, as well as a stepping stone from which to launch another run in the 2023 Presidential election.

BJP, PM Modi elected back to power after May 23 vote count; no imminent threat to political stability – India Analysis

Executive Summary

The National Democratic Alliance returned to power for a second consecutive term after the Bharatiya Janata Party secured the single-party majority.

The conflicting opposition strategies on political alliances appear to have weakened the challenge posed to the BJP-led NDA.

The largely personality-driven political campaigning by the ruling alliance also appears to have played a significant role in shaping voting patterns.

The election results are reflective of a consolidation of the national mandate when compared to the 2014 elections, and is unlikely to result in a significant, negative shift as far as the business and security environments are concerned in the immediate term.

Travel to Delhi and other major Indian cities can continue, while travelers are advised to maintain vigilance for security risks associated with frequent, large demonstrations as well as potential militant threats targeting government buildings, security installations, large crowded public places, or religious sites.

Current Situation

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was voted back into power for a second consecutive five-year term following the announcement of the 2019 general assembly elections held across 543 constituencies across 29 states. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), the BJP won 303 seats while the NDA secured a total of 353 seats.

The NDA won all seats it contested in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, while also securing the majority of seats in Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. The BJP also secured a landslide win in the southern state of Karnataka where it secured 25 out of a total of 28 seats. The center-ruling party also made considerable inroads into West Bengal and Odisha, while nevertheless ending up in second place in both states.

The Mahagathbandhan (MGB), or Grand Alliance, formed by the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), failed to defeat the BJP in the electorally significant state of Uttar Pradesh. The BJP appears to have won in 62 constituencies out of a total of 80 in the state.

The Indian National Congress (INC)-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won a total of 90 seats.

Assessments

Conflicting opposition strategies on political alliances weakened challenge to BJP-led NDA

As previously assessed, the BJP victory was a result of a lack of cohesion among the opposition parties, thus splitting anti-government votes in key states. The INC’s failure to unequivocally take on the leadership of an opposition front, such as the Mahagathbandhan, was due to prevailing considerations within the party leadership that it could capitalize on short-term anti-BJP sentiment to take the elections on its own merit. However, the final results indicate that the INC-led UPA has only gained 24 seats in comparison with 2014, which is a less-than-expected tally. Further, it continued to work with traditional regional allies, many of whom did not necessarily have adequate momentum going into these elections.

This is in contrast with the BJP – the party retained key allies in states where disaffection against them was building, such as in Maharashtra, where it restored ties with the Shiv Sena. Similar overtures were made to parties such as the Janata Dal-United (JDU), and coordination of strategy in terms of candidate allocation and seat sharing was also observed. On the other hand, the party retained strategic allies in states where it has not been conventionally strong. This includes the northeastern states, where the BJP-led Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) weathered unrest over the Citizenship Amendment Bill to lead in states like Assam.

Policy issues overtaken by personality-driven campaigns, focus placed on national narratives

Despite the initial traction that policy issues such as demonetization, unemployment, and security gained during the pre-election discourse, the focus of campaigns by both the ruling and opposition sides have been personality-driven. This is not necessarily a novel concept, given that regional politics has long been dominated by strong figures, around whom campaigns are structured. However, the BJP’s utilization of this strategy at the national level, combining social media and targeted campaigns with demographics-rooted nuance, is highly notable and builds on early versions of such an approach from 2014. Given the large numbers of first-time voters, pegged at close to 15 million in the 18-19 age group, the use of candidates with targeted appeal and closely-managed social media campaigns likely factored in voting trends. In many cases, the families of career-politicians were passed over in favor of newer candidates. This was witnessed in Bangalore, where 28-year-old Tejaswi Surya was chosen instead of five-time MP Ananth Kumar’s wife, while actor Sunny Deol was favored over the wife of actor Rajesh Khanna.

Another notable trend that has strengthened since 2014 is the distinction that the electorate had made between national politics and state parties with regard to policy. While the BJP was voted out in legislative elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh in late 2018, the party won with a resounding margin in these states during the current parliamentary elections. Voters increasingly isolated factors such as unemployment and agrarian discontent to the perceived incompetence of state BJP governments, while preferring that the party nevertheless hold power at the center. Public sentiment surrounding PM Modi’s administration in these states appears to have concluded that poorly performing BJP state governments did not detract from the ruling party’s broader intent.

Platforms such as national security, which have emerged as a key factor since the Pulwama attack and skirmishes with Pakistan in February, have likely buttressed this trend. Further, opposition parties including the INC were positioned to the electorate as primarily anti-incumbent, but not necessarily presenting a clear policy platform of their own. INC tactics focussed on recent scandals such as the Rafale deal were seen as an extension of this campaign orientation. In contrast, INC policy platforms such as the Nyunatam Aay Yojana (Nyay) scheme, a minimum income guarantee scheme, were late inclusions in the campaigns and thus, did not pay significant electoral dividends.

Immediate-term impact on business interests, security to remain unchanged

In the immediate term, a BJP-led NDA victory will be seen as a generally positive development, given the government’s overall perceived business-friendly image.  This has been indicated by the recent rallying of stock market indices in the weeks prior to the elections, as exit polls indicated a BJP win. The rally was marked by notable but short-term gains on May 23, and the subsequent drops may be reflective of long-term structural economic concerns. However, the continuity associated with the BJP’s win will be seen as providing greater levels of stability in the immediate term. Coordination between the central and state governments, especially in the states where the BJP has significant political sway or a party-led government, can be expected on policy issues. Finally, the BJP’s majority position in the Lok Sabha will also reduce its reliance on coalition partners, granting greater stability to the incoming national government. Overall, the NDA’s return to power is unlikely to result in a significant, negative shift as far as the immediate business and security environment is concerned at the national level.

FORECAST: An examination of the overall vote share of the BJP shows a rise since 2014, as the party is pegged to gain close to 40 percent of the total vote share alone, as opposed to the 31 percent share in 2014. This may be indicative of a more consolidated national mandate when compared to the last elections. However, as witnessed after the 2014 elections, continued polarization within the electorate is liable to manifest in localized socio-political and religious tensions, especially between the BJP and minority communities. Caste and inter-religious conflict may see a rise over the long term, based on the extent to which right-wing groups affiliated with the BJP are emboldened post elections. However, these conflicts will largely be localized, and are not expected to destabilize security at the broader national level. States where the BJP has seen increased vote share gains, such as West Bengal and some constituencies of Kerala, will be particular flashpoints of conflict. The party will seek to displace volatile INC-led state coalition governments, such as in Karnataka. In the immediate term, the BJP win is liable to have an impact on local disaffection in Kashmir, ahead of state elections in Jammu and Kashmir. There is a potential for an increase in militancy and separatist unrest, in reaction to the key gains the BJP made in the state during the general elections.

Recommendations

Travel to Delhi and other major Indian cities can continue, while travelers are advised to maintain vigilance for security risks associated with frequent, large demonstrations as well as potential militant threats targeting government buildings, security installations, large crowded public places, or religious sites.

Those operating or residing in India are advised to maintain general vigilance due to the risk of localized and isolated incidents of unrest in the aftermath of the election results.

Avoid discussing controversial issues regarding the elections with unfamiliar individuals, especially topics related to caste or religion due to the risk of eliciting confrontational behavior.

Avoid the vicinity of party offices and celebratory rallies due to the latent risk of violence. Allot for temporary disruptions to travel during these rallies, especially in major cities.

Remain cognizant of local laws and post-electoral sensitivities especially when posting on social media, due to the risk of legal action or state prosecution as a response to controversial content.

Elections to take place on February 16 amid violence in several regions – Nigeria Analysis

Executive Summary

General elections will be held in Nigeria on February 16, in order to elect the president as well as the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will seek re-election, with his main challenger being Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The main issues of the election are the state of the economy, endemic corruption, and the wide range of security threats across the country. These security issues may make it difficult to organize polls in some areas, particularly in the northeast where Boko Haram and the Islamic State have caused large-scale displacement.

The culture of patronage and role of local figures in mobilizing support for national races has led to Buhari and Abubakar making key connections to political leaders across the country, contributing to national tensions on a local level.

The risk of political violence will rise significantly after the election when the results are released and could translate to clashes between party cadres as well as violence directed toward state authorities. This is most likely in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and Adamawa states. Reported or perceived irregularities in the presidential election would likely result in unrest in Lagos and Abuja as well.

Those operating or residing in Nigeria on February 16 are advised to avoid nonessential travel to the vicinity of election-related facilities as well as any political gatherings due to the possibility of unrest.

Current Situation

In July and August 2018, more than 30 senators and 90 representatives defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), mostly to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), including Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Vice President and current PDP flag-bearer, Atiku Abubakar.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected as the APC presidential candidate for re-election amid the party convention held in Abuja in October. Likewise, Atiku Abubakar was chosen as the PDP presidential candidate in a primary election.

On January 3, Amina Zakari was appointed as INEC’s head of the collation center of the elections, triggering allegations of misconduct by the PDP given that she is related to President Buhari.

On January 25, Buhari announced the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen over corruption allegations, sparking the PDP’s condemnation over what they claimed was the APC’s attempt to “influence” the judiciary before the election. This led to PDP demonstrations and a 72-hour suspension of the campaign in solidarity with Onnoghen.

Reports indicate that over 120 people were killed during the month of January 2019 due to banditry and subsequent security operations in Zamfara, Katsina, and Sokoto states.

 

Assessments & Forecast

Core issues and challenges affecting Nigeria ahead of tense electoral process

Political tensions and violence have always been a common feature of Nigerian electoral processes, both at the national and regional level. In fact, Buhari’s ascension to power in 2015 represented the first peaceful transition of power between the ruling party and the opposition in the country’s history. Nonetheless, political unrest did take place during the campaign period as well as in the aftermath of the elections. In the current campaign, these tensions were evidenced relatively early on by the brief siege of the National Assembly by security forces in August 2018 in order to allegedly allow the impeachment of Senate President Bukola Saraki following his defection to the PDP. Additionally, there was high-level unrest during the Osun gubernatorial election between APC and PDP cadres in September 2018. This not only illustrates the deep-rooted volatility of Nigerian electoral periods but also sets the precedent for a highly contentious election on February 16.

There is a range of issues concerning Nigerians ahead of the polls, primarily the economy and security of the country. This includes the general stagnation of the economy and how it is intertwined with endemic corruption. Despite being the largest economy in Africa as well as an oil producer, Nigeria is believed to be the country that is home to the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, at 87 million. This is coupled with high levels of unemployment at more than 23 percent in 2018. This is exacerbated by corruption at all levels of government, including the federal government, judiciary, and local institutions nationwide. These have been widely debated on the campaign trail.

In addition, the multifaceted security threats are a core issue. This includes widespread criminality and kidnappings-for-ransom nationwide, cultism in the south, intercommunal violence between farmers and herders in the Middle Belt Region, and conflicts between bandits and vigilante groups in Zamfara and northern Kaduna states. Finally, there is the consistent threat posed by Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the northeast, particularly as ISWAP has shown increased capabilities in recent months, with attacks in December and January that have left thousands displaced.
FORECAST: The northeast in particular faces not only the threat of attacks during the polls but also the logistical challenge of holding the elections in areas dealing with the displacement of people, which will likely impact electoral turnout. While militant groups have not issued any specific threats associated with the elections, many of the areas’ 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be voting inside of IDP camps across Borno State, some of which are areas that are heavily targeted by militants.

Culture of patronage, regional politics to influence election

With corruption as a major issue of the election, President Buhari has attempted to capitalize on his reputation of being “incorruptible” during the campaign. His image as a watchdog and the active anti-corruption practices instituted during his tenure have been key to this. Buhari is also assisted by his popularity among peasants in northern Nigeria, who play a key role in the electorate, as a result of his origins in Katsina State. In tandem, his running mate Vice President Osinbajo’s popularity among ethnic Yoruba and others in the southwest region help to bolster this support. On the other hand, one of Buhari’s primary challenges are the doubts regarding his fitness in office given that he is already 75-years-old and has spent prolonged medical leaves abroad. Finally, the state of the economy is likely to affect his support nationwide, while rising insecurity may undermine him in states that he won in 2015, such as Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, and Zamfara.

Atiku Abubakar as centered his campaign on his ability to revitalize the economy due to his experience as a successful businessman. He has also pointed to his political experience, as he served as Vice President under Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999-2007. He has sought to contrast his approach to security with Buhari, promising extensive reforms within the security sector to combat criminality, banditry, and militancy. In this context, he received the public support of several prominent generals who had supported Buhari in the 2015 election. Abubakar’s choice of running mate, Peter Obi, an ethnic Igbo, was likely a strategic effort to mobilize voters in the southeast, as seen when influence Igbo sociopolitical group Ohaneze Ndigbo called upon Igbomen to support Abubakar. However, Abubakar has already faced allegations of corruption and questions over the source of his enormous wealth during his vice presidency. Another concern for his campaign will be his poor electoral history, as despite his victory in the PDP primary election, he failed in his attempts to run for president in 2007 and 2011 as well as in the 2015 APC primaries.

The regional and ethnic connections already made by Buhari and Abubakar point to a key dynamic in Nigerian politics. Given the country’s size, federal structure, and entrenched corruption, there is a dominant culture of patronage where the support of local figures plays an essential role in gaining support in important areas. Part of the presidential campaigns’ efforts has been to find local figures capable of mobilizing voters. Kano State exemplifies this dynamic as it has the largest number of voters alongside Lagos State, making it an important battleground. Buhari won Kano with 90 percent in 2015 and counts on the state governor, Umar Ganduje, who vowed to deliver “at least five million votes”. However, Abubakar has gained the support of a former Kano governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who is still regarded as an extremely influential figure and holds the potential to significantly reduce the margin of victory compared to 2015.

President Buhari also has a solid level of support in the North West and, to some extent, in the South West, though the North Central region has always been regarded as a “swing” zone that often decides the elections. Buhari won this area in 2015 with 56.2 percent, but North Central encompasses the states most affected by intercommunal violence between farmers and Fulani herders, especially Benue, Nasarawa, and Plateau. With Buhari widely criticized for what those in the region perceive to be a soft stance against Fulani herders, he has the potential to lose a considerable number of votes.
FORECAST: This is further exacerbated by the defection of Senate President and former Kwara governor Bukola Saraki, as well as current Benue governor Samuel Ortom, from the Buhari’s APC to Abubakar’s PDP. Both of these figures, highly influential in their respective states, have actively campaigned in favor of Abubakar, and this is likely to turn both states to the PDP in the upcoming electionץ

FORECAST: As the elections draw nearer, and given the culture of patronage and political clientelism across the country, tensions are expected to rise ahead, during, and especially after the polls. While there are some instances of conflict, such as the alleged inability of Rabiu Kwankwaso to hold PDP rallies in Kano due to pressure by the APC-supporting state government, this is likely to worsen. Although there have largely be isolated cases of unrest thus far, the risk of violence will rise significantly in the days after the election when the results of both the presidential and local polls have been released. This unrest is expected to translate to scuffles between party cadres, as well as violence directed at state authorities by the losing party and their supporters. This is most likely in states with a long history of political violence, such as Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and Adamawa states.

These tensions have been fueled by both parties, as the APC have alleged that the PDP is mobilizing armed groups to influence the vote while the PDP have raised questions regarding the independence of the electoral commission as its president, Amina Zakari, is a relative of President Buhari. Moreover, the suspension of Chief Justice Onnoghen close to the polls raised further suspicion by the PDP. These suspicions of vote-rigging, intimidation, and the widespread practice of political clientelism illustrate the overall political climate in the country. FORECAST: In the event of contentious results on a local or national level, demonstrations and unrest are likely in the above states as well as in Lagos. If there are reported or perceived irregularities in the context of the presidential election, protests with a strong potential for unrest are liable in Abuja, particularly in the vicinity of the Supreme Court, electoral commission, and other central locations.

Recommendations

Travel to Abuja, Lagos, and Port Harcourt can continue while exercising increased vigilance and adhering to stringent security precautions regarding criminal and security threats.
Those operating or residing in Nigeria on February 16 are advised to avoid nonessential travel to the vicinity of polling stations, tallying centers, and other election-related facilities due to the possibility of unrest.
We further advise to maintain heightened vigilance in the week following the polls and avoid nonessential travel to the vicinity of any demonstration that may arise due to the risk of unrest.

 

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Potential for militancy, protest activity heightened during March 26-28 elections; major instability as seen in past years unlikely – Egypt Analysis

Current Situation

On March 26-28, Egypt will hold Presidential elections. Current President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will be running for reelection against El-Ghad Party leader Moussa Mostafa Moussa.

Moussa has stated that he supports al-Sisi for president, despite his own candidacy. Numerous political opposition leaders declared a boycott of the elections, in protest of the current administration’s detention and alleged pressure on previous candidates to withdraw.

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood political organization and other anti-government groups have yet to release official calls for protests during the elections. In recent weeks, authorities announced arrests of Muslim Brotherhood elements “seeking to interrupt the elections and endanger public safety.” On less frequent occasions in past weeks, security forces apprehended militants belonging to the Hasam Movement, a militant group comprised of pro-Muslim Brotherhood elements, who were “planning to carry out attacks during the elections”.

The Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Wilayat Sinai released media on February 11 in which it threatens to attack polling stations across the country during the elections, and warned “the Muslim public” to avoid voting sites and other locales associated with the elections in view of attack operations. The Sunni jihadist group stated the Presidential elections are “the greatest form of polytheism.”

In IS’s official literature on February 15, the group encouraged attacks by its militants and supporters, stating that “attacks will show al-Sisi’s allies that he is incapable of controlling security in the main areas under his rule, let alone distant regions like Sinai, the Western Desert, and areas in Aswan and Upper Egypt.”

Assessments & Forecast

Al-Sisi likely to be reelected

Considering al-Sisi’s current competition in the election, the result is likely predetermined, and al-Sisi will be reelected for another term. Moussa’s candidacy is likely meant to provide the elections with an appearance of being democratic and to lend credibility to al-Sisi’s mandate as head of state upon his reelection. The successful removal of all serious candidates is indicative of the support al-Sisi maintains among Egypt’s military and security elites, who trust that he will protect their interests, especially their financial stakes and Egypt’s overall stability. The detention of two former high-ranking figures of the armed forces demonstrated this, namely former Prime Minister and Egyptian Air Force (EAF) Commander in Chief Ahmed Shafiq, and former Chief of Staff of Egyptian Armed Forces (EAAF) Sami Hafez Anan, who both subsequently left the Presidential race. Al-Sisi could not have placed these long-serving, well-connected military rivals into custody if he did not have the backing of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the heads of Egypt’s intelligence service. In light of this, al-Sisi will likely retain this support in the coming years, rendering a change in the country’s leadership improbable.

Protests likely in lead-up, during elections, but government likely to effectively contain

Though calls for holding anti-government protests during the elections have yet to be issued, they will likely be released in the coming days, given widely held sentiments against the current leadership, and a view of the elections as undemocratic prevailing among the public. Muslim Brotherhood activists release calls for nationwide protests on a weekly basis, and the theme of their anti-government protest activity in the coming week is liable to focus on denouncing the al-Sisi Presidency and elections as illegitimate. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups will likely stage protests in conjunction with the elections.

FORECAST: The rate of protest activity will likely rise over this period relative to recent months. Some of these will be planned, and others will occur on a sporadic, spontaneous basis, likely near polling stations. The protests may devolve into civil unrest, featuring scuffles and localized clashes between participants and security personnel. This would stem from the anti-government nature of the demonstrations and heightened sensitivity over the elections. Events of this volatile nature would likely be forcibly scattered by security forces, including through the firing of tear gas and rubber bullets.

However, this period is unlikely to witness the type of destabilizing unrest seen during Egypt’s revolution and subsequent political upheaval of 2011-2013. In more recent years, the rate of anti-government protest activity and unrest has declined significantly. This is due to various government measures, including the arrests of thousands of anti-government activists and their leaders. This has left such groups without much of its capable leadership who organized political operations and demonstrations, and deprived of a large share of their membership. Citizens’ political will to engage in major protest campaigns has also likely markedly diminished, given protesters’ general lack of success in achieving their goals, and the human toll taken over the course of their pursuits.

Moreover, in advance of recent sensitive political dates and events, authorities have also closed off symbolic places previously used as protest sites, including Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well as main thoroughfares. This has prevented protests from materializing, thus averting large-scale violent incidents as seen in 2001-2013, and stopping protest movements from gaining traction and momentum overall. Authorities will once again implement this security strategy from May 26-28, which will likely be effective overall in containing and preventing anti-government demonstrations.

Militancy threats from jihadist, disenfranchised Muslim Brotherhood groups heightened during election period

The rate of militancy-related events in mainland Egypt, including attacks and arrests of militants, has declined in recent years, and more so over past months. However, the potential for militant attacks on March 26-28 will be relatively heightened, as militant groups seek to damage al-Sisi’s reputation for tackling militancy, presenting him as unable to secure the country. A successful attack during the period of the Presidential elections would attract wide media attention for the militant group responsible, given the public and symbolic nature of this period. This would bolster the militant group’s profile, including by its members and supporters, possibly motivating further attacks and drawing recruits to its ranks. This is underscored by an IED attack targeting Alexandria’s chief of police on March 24 which authorities have stated was carried out by the Hasam Movement. A further example of such an event is the most recent attack in mainland Egypt claimed by IS, namely the operation targeting a Coptic Church in Helwan during the holiday season, on December 29, 2017.

As to the statements released by IS and its Sinai-affiliate threatening and calling for attacking polling stations and associated installations, these were likely aimed to deter Egyptians from voting, thus lowering the participation rate in the elections. This would further undermine al-Sisi’s mandate in the view of the Egyptian public, and diminish the reputation of the country’s authorities. This corresponds to IS’s overall strategy in Egypt, which is to weaken Egypt’s leadership, damage the State, in turn replacing it with an Islamic State in the future. Another Sunni jihadist group posing potential dangers during the election period, is the relatively new Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, which was responsible for the large-scale October 20, 2017 Bahariya Oasis attack. According to reports, Jamaat Ansar al-Islam has gained dozens of new members in recent months, including Islamist former members of the security forces, and an attack during the elections would greatly publicize the group’s existence and present it as especially capable.

The Hasam Movement, and similar militant groups consisting of pro-Muslim Brotherhood elements such as Liwaa al-Thawra, likely see the election period as a particularly attractive time to launch attacks. This is in response to the Muslim Brotherhood political organization’s continued banned status and removal from the sanctioned political landscape, and in response to authorities’ ongoing crackdown on the group’s members. These groups target security personnel, government officials, and those aligned with authorities. That said, bystanders face a threat of collateral damage in the event of the attacks. Overall, these groups have not been especially active of late, and the last claimed attack claimed was for an IED detonation at the Myanmar Embassy in Cairo on September 30, 2017, which Hasam claimed to have executed. However, the groups remain in operation, as indicated by periodically recorded arrests of their members over past months, and thus, they pose a persisting threat, especially during the symbolic election period.

FORECAST: Over the coming days, authorities will implement bolstered security protocols around the country, including posting additional security personnel, especially near polling stations and potential protest sites on May 26-28. Security forces will likely carry out raids targeting both militant elements and anti-government activists, to mitigate the potential for militant activity and larger-scale civil unrest to unfold. However, comparatively large gatherings of security personnel present attractive targets for militant groups, which may draw the attention of such elements during the elections. Citizens may view additional security personnel at protest sites as oppressive, exacerbating tensions between the sides, and fomenting localized unrest.

Recommendations

On March 26-28 avoid nonessential travel to the vicinity of polling stations, given the heightened threat of militancy and protests posed to these locations during this time period.

Allot for disruptions and plan alternative routes for travel due to the likely closures of main roads and thoroughfares concurrent with the elections.

Travel to Cairo and Alexandria may continue while adhering to all security precautions regarding militancy and civil unrest. Consult with us for itinerary-based travel recommendations.

Avoid all travel to the North Sinai Governorate and border areas with Libya, Sudan, and Israel due to the persistent risk for militant attacks, kidnappings, and general lawlessness.

Avoid nonessential travel to the Southern Sinai Peninsula, while maintaining heightened vigilance in the Suez Canal Zone, the Upper Nile area, and the Nile Delta region due to an increased risk of unrest and the heightened risk of militant attacks. Before traveling to Sharm al-Sheikh, confirm that flight operations are continuing and have not been impacted by recent militant threats.

In Cairo, maintain heightened vigilance and continue to allot extra time for travel due to possible delays emanating from increased security deployments, checkpoints, and closures throughout the capital.

Remain vigilant in areas surrounding and avoid the immediate vicinity of government installations, police stations, and religious centers, particularly churches, as these locations remain under elevated threat of militant attacks. When traveling in central squares, or in areas with persistent police deployments, avoid the immediate vicinity of security forces, particularly fixed traffic booths, as such personnel and facilities have increasingly come under attack by militant elements.

New military campaign in North Sinai likely linked to upcoming March 2018 presidential elections – Egypt Analysis

Current Situation

On February 9, the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAAF) Spokesperson announced the commencement of a large-scale “comprehensive” military operation to “eliminate all terrorist elements” across the country, called “Operation Sinai 2018”, with special emphasis placed on the Sinai Peninsula, Nile Delta, and Western Desert. The Spokesperson also announced an increase of the country’s alert level due to the operations.

As part of the of the campaign, the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) intensified the frequency of its airstrikes targeting militant hideouts throughout North Sinai Governorate, especially in the Rafah-al-Arish-Sheikh Zuweid triangle and Central Sinai District. The Egyptian Navy increased its activity along Sinai’s coastal region, while heightened security protocols were recorded at ports and border crossings. Security forces also increased presence in the vicinity of vital infrastructure and installations. Reports from February 9 indicate that civilian Suez Canal crossings from mainland Egypt to the Sinai, including by vessel and through tunnels, have been closed to civilian traffic due to the military campaign.

On March 8, the EAAF Spokesperson stated that Operation Sinai 2018 had yielded the deaths of 105 Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Wilayat Sinai fighters and the arrests of hundreds of the group’s militants, and that 16 soldiers had also been killed since the beginning of the campaign. The Spokesperson also announced that the EAAF destroyed 1,907 hideouts and weapon storehouses.

Assessments & Forecast

The Egyptian government has achieved partial success in containing militancy threats over the past year, with a reduction in the overall number of attacks. However, the persistence, albeit reduced frequency, of attacks in North Sinai Governorate and mainland Egypt likely motivated this recent operation, demonstrating efforts to mitigate threats from multiple groups, particularly the IS-affiliate Wilayat Sinai. The large-scale attack at a mosque in North Sinai’s Bir al-Abd on November 24, 2017, which killed over 300 people, also likely triggered the operation, and it took a period of months to prepare and mobilize for the current operation.

However, considering the timing of its commencement and execution, the primary motivation for the military campaign is likely political and connected to the upcoming March 2018 presidential elections, in which President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is the leading candidate. President al-Sisi likely initiated the operations in order to boost his status among the Egyptian populace and project an image of power, stability, and intensified efforts to tackle the threat of militancy. Al-Sisi also likely timed the operation to deflect domestic and international criticism away from the election’s perceived lack of legitimacy and toward the issue of counter-terrorism, following the withdrawal or arrest of most of his electoral opponents over the past several weeks. To a lesser but still significant degree, the operation was also likely launched to draw attention away from Egypt’s poor economic conditions and towards a different public issue, namely militancy, and measures taken by authorities to tackle it.

The operations also follow international media reports about Israeli airstrikes against Wilayat Sinai in North Sinai in recent years. The Egyptian government likely intends to use the operations to demonstrate their sovereignty over North Sinai Governorate and their ability to mitigate militant threats with their own forces. This is particularly likely in light of the heightened criticism regarding al-Sisi’s close cooperation with Israeli authorities vis-a-vis the threat of militancy stemming from Wilayat Sinai elements.

Strategically, the nationwide campaign aims largely at isolating Wilayat Sinai militants in North Sinai Governorate. The reported closure of Suez Canal crossings to the movement of civilians, as well as the intensified activity by the Egyptian Navy along the Sinai coastal region, are meant to prevent reinforcements and smugglers from aiding Wilayat Sinai militants, thus putting further pressure on the Sunni jihadist militant group in North Sinai Governorate. The heightened security measures in the vicinity of vital infrastructure and installations likely were put in place to prevent reprisal attacks by militants, which in turn, would embarrass the Egyptian authorities.

FORECAST: The EAAF will likely continue implementing a strategy aimed at further isolating Wilayat Sinai militants in their aforementioned strongholds of Central Sinai Distinct and the Rafah-al-Arish-Sheikh Zuweid triangle. By carrying out simultaneous assaults on these two areas, the EAAF likely seeks to fix militants in their positions, preventing them from reinforcing the two respective areas or conducting attacks to the rear of security forces. The intensified aerial bombardments are meant to hamper militant movements, which in turn, may impede their ability to regroup or conduct attacks in order to force the deployment of Egyptian troops away from the frontlines. Furthermore, tighter inspection is liable to be enforced between Egypt and Gaza at the Rafah border crossings.

Israel permitted Egypt to deploy a large amount of forces into Sinai, as according to the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, Israeli permission is required for such a move. This highlights the increased coordination between the two countries, as they both perceived Wilayat Sinai as a strategic threat. In order to complicate and discourage the security coordination between the two countries, Wilayat Sinai may target southern Israel with rocket fire over the coming days and weeks. While in the short-term, the number of Wilayat Sinai attacks may decrease, given precedent of previous operations by the EAAF in North Sinai Governorate, over the coming months the Sunni jihadist militant group will likely renew its elevated activity in the region. The group will likely lower its profile in order to facilitate this, which would enable it to regroup and carry out multiple attacks against Egyptian security forces.

Recommendations

Travel to Cairo and Alexandria may continue while adhering to all security precautions regarding militancy and civil unrest. Consult with us for itinerary-based travel recommendations.

Avoid all travel to the North Sinai Governorate and border areas with Libya, Sudan, and Israel due to the persistent risk for militant attacks, kidnappings, and general lawlessness.

We further advise to avoid nonessential travel to the Southern Sinai Peninsula, while maintaining heightened vigilance in the Suez Canal Zone, the Upper Nile area, and the Nile Delta region due to an increased risk of unrest and the heightened risk of militant attacks. Before traveling to Sharm al-Sheikh, confirm that flight operations are continuing and have not been impacted by recent militant threats.

As a general security precaution, remain vigilant in areas surrounding and avoid the immediate vicinity of government installations, police stations, and religious centers, particularly churches, as these locations remain under elevated threat of militant attacks. When traveling in central squares, or in areas with persistent police deployments, avoid the immediate vicinity of security forces, particularly fixed traffic booths, as such personnel and facilities have increasingly come under attack by militant elements.

Egypt Riots: The Islamists Chance To Sink The SCAF Once And For All?

By Daniel N.

Poised to dominate the next parliament, Egypt’s Islamists have been provided with an opportunity to rid the SCAF of its remaining political clout.

Egyptian youth riot in Downtown Cairo. (AP)

What began last Friday as another provocation by the usual revolutionary trouble makers has quickly evolved into a stark display of the SCAF’s brutality, to which all Egyptians can identify with.  Friday’s unrest spiraled out of control in nearly the same fashion as the November 18 protests, which nearly compromised the first round of parliamentary elections. The unrest began when the military attempted to attack a distinct group of anti-regime holdouts, this time in front of the Cabinet building. Like the last round which erupted at Tahrir Square, activists flooded images of police brutality on social media through their camera phones, enraging and rallying area youth to join the ensuing riots.

Like the previous round of unrest, the Muslim Brotherhood and other influential factions have stood silent, refraining from sending their supporters into the streets, only issuing generalized condemnations and calling for a halt to violence. Despite the fact that the November unrest began after a mass Brotherhood-led anti-SCAF rally, the ensuing riots by revolutionary youth groups threatened to derail the much anticipated parliamentary elections. Continue reading Egypt Riots: The Islamists Chance To Sink The SCAF Once And For All?