Tag Archives: Protest

Wave of anti-government protests highlighting growing disaffection with establishment parties may exacerbate political tensions – Balkans Analysis

Executive Summary

Several countries in the Balkans have seen intense anti-government protest movements in recent months, exacerbating nationalist sentiments and political tensions.

In Albania, protesters are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama amid perceptions of systemic corruption. Snap elections would likely see Rama retain power, leading to a period of intense opposition protests.

Montenegro’s President was the subject of anti-corruption protests. A period of resisting protester demands will culminate in early elections, which he will likely win.

In North Macedonia, the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party are expected to rekindle protests surrounding the naming agreement with Greece. Disputes over the election of the President are liable to be the key motivator.

Serbia’s President is liable to heed protesters’ demands and call for early elections. Vucic’s continued support from non-urban voters will preserve the ruling party’s status in government

Region-wide

During the course of 2018-19, several countries in the Balkans experienced anti-government protests stemming from issues including corruption, media manipulation, and territorial disputes. Protest movements remain ongoing in urban centers of Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia by both newly created organizations and established political parties, while demonstrations surrounding the name deal with Greece have temporarily abated in Macedonia as of the beginning of 2019. Protests have witnessed instances of unrest and violence, including clashes between protesters and police in capital cities and major urban centers.

Ethnic Composition of Balkans

Regionwide protest movements could lead to rekindling of nationalistic sentiment and exacerbate ethnic tensions

The protest movements throughout the Balkans are liable to lead to a rekindling of nationalist sentiments spurred by disaffection to systemic corruption and a lack of economic prosperity. Factions in each country seek to remove governments with the support of protest movements, and movement leaders have widely adopted nationalist stances to garner support for the changes in government. The various protest movements and leaders have promised to guarantee better governance and have capitalized on the existing nationalist tendencies. The rise in nationalist sentiments could see a shift in voting patterns with traditionally center-right to right-wing parties gathering traction and support by moving further to the right, particularly on issues of ethnonationalism.

The increasing influence of nationalism on political and government policies risks disrupting the already fragile coexistence of the multiple ethnicities within the region. Incumbent leaders are taking stronger stances on pre-existing issues, such as Serbian President Aleskander Vucic’s strategy in ongoing negotiations with Kosovo, which has included proposing a territorial exchange with Pristina and seeking to end the tariffs on Serbian goods through talks hosted by the EU. Vucic, in order to garner support from nationalist and right-wing elements, is liable to pursue a policy towards Pristina that does not include the possibility of recognition and call for the establishment of semi-autonomous ethnic Serb authority within Kosovan borders. The implications of the aggravation in Kosovo-Serbia relations could increase tensions between the Albanian diaspora in other nations, as well as other ethnicities. With this, a growth in the Albanian representation in North Macedonia and Montenegro has been recorded, as well as Bosnian and Hungarian parties in Serbia seeing an increase in support.

Albania

Initial protests against the Albanian government commenced in November 2018, when residents of the Astir neighborhood rallied against the construction of the Unaza e Madhe or Great Ring Road. Following the Great Ring protests, student organizations began staging mass demonstrations in Tirana and other urban centers. The protests called on the government to improve the education budget and the overall status of institutions in Albania, among other grievances.

Since February 2019, the main opposition party, Partia Demokratike e Shqiperise (PD) and other political entities have staged anti-government demonstrations in Tirana. The PD has called for Prime Minister Edi Rama of the Partia Socialiste e Shqiperise (PS) to resign and call for snap elections. Thousands continue to attend weekly protests in Tirana, which have seen widespread unrest with protesters targeting the PM’s office and parliament buildings. The PD accuses Rama’s cabinet of corruption and links to organized crime, as well as vote manipulation during the 2017 general election. All 65 opposition MPs vacated their parliamentary seats on February 18 in protest against Rama. The PD and other opposition parties have stated they intend to boycott the upcoming local elections if PM Rama refuses to step down.

Leaders & Protest Groups in Albania

Opposition demands for snap elections unlikely to translate into increase in political power

The protests are reflective of the perceived inability of the administration to reform the economy and tackle corruption, which remains a core public grievance and is often viewed as the chief hindrance to the country joining the EU. A continuation in the violence witnessed at political demonstrations could negatively impact potential negotiations with Brussels.

The increasing pressure on Rama caused by the protest movement and threatened resignation of President Ilir Meta, who has clashed with Rama in the past, indicate that a snap election is increasingly likely, possibly coinciding with the local elections in June. However, in light of the possible opposition boycott of the local elections, the PD and other parties could denounce such a decision and refuse to participate in any elections until Rama formally steps down, increasing the potential for an increase in political volatility at associated demonstrations.

Given that Rama’s PS gained 74 of 140 seats in Parliament in 2017 and that the protest movement has failed to gain sizeable traction outside Tirana, the PS could retain control of the parliament in snap elections. Rama’s victory would further elevate the discontent among the opposition, leading to large-scale protests, accusations of electoral fraud, and violence at protests.

Considering PD leader Luzlim Basha’s statements and the widespread discontent emanating from student organizations, residents of Tirana, and opposition members, protests are liable to continue in the near-to-medium term in Tirana. The protests could see an increased turnout if PM Rama refuses to engage in dialogue, call early elections, or put forth his resignation. Demonstrations will continue targeting government buildings and could witness further unrest. Further elevating the propensity for unrest are recurring accusations of corruption within Rama’s government, which have led to two senior ministers resigning since the protests began.

Montenegro

Since February, large-scale anti-government protests calling for the resignation of President Milo Djukanovic and his government have been recorded in Podgorica surrounding government buildings. The protests have included episodes of unrest, such as on March 16 when demonstrators launched projectiles at security forces who then proceeded to use tear gas and force to disperse the unruly gatherings.

Following the detention and subsequent release of an opposition leader in December 2018 which incited protests, a video was released in January showing Dusko Knezevic, a prominent businessman and former ally of Djukanovic, giving illicit campaign funding to a member of Djuaknovic’s Demokratska Partija Socijalista Crne Gore (DPS) party.

On March 30, leaders of the Odupri se protest movement and 39 Members of Parliament called for opposition parties to campaign together against the DPS should elections be called. A second anti-government protest movement supporting Knezevic was created under the banner of “Do Slobode” (To Freedom). The leaders of the Odupri se movement have continued to denounce Dusko Knezevic, who has attempted to set up his own political party. On May 9, the High Court in Podgorica convicted 14 individuals for their involvement in the October 2016 coup plot. Among the convicted are the leaders of opposition parties such as the Demokratska Narodna Partija (DNP) who are one of the chief protagonists of the ongoing anti-government protests.

Leaders & Protest groups in Montenegro

Djukanovic liable to call snap elections; could see right-wing, Serb-interest parties making gains

The anti-incumbency sentiment towards Djukanovic, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, was exacerbated by corruption accusations and a failure to address the activities of criminal and drug trafficking organizations, who continue to operate in port cities and are known to conduct targeted killings.

Djukanovic’s denouncement of the protest movement will likely translate into a prolonged resistance by his administration to enact its demands which include the resignation of top officials and forming a transitional government to hold elections. With Djukanovic unlikely to acquiesce, a continuation of large-scale protests can be expected in the immediate term focusing on government buildings in Podgorica. Tensions with the opposition could be exacerbated by the conviction of opposition leaders for their involvement in the 2016 coup plot. Odupri se, whose leaders immediately denounced the conviction, will likely rally behind the DNP and other opposition leaders and seek to invoke perceptions of the persecution of opponents of President Djukanovic.

The unification of the Odupri se protest movement and leaders of the opposition is liable to increase pressure on Djukanovic to call snap elections. However, the emergence of the “Do Slobode” organization could see rival protests manifesting and scuffles among rival groups.

If snap elections are called, the DPS is liable to see a decrease in its overall seats but may still be able to form a governing coalition, while right-wing and pro-Serb interest parties stand to make gains. An increase in the political power afforded to Serb interest parties could result in further political polarization over future relations with the EU and neighboring countries, in particular, Serbia.

North Macedonia

Beginning in 2018, anti-government demonstrations organized by the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party and other nationalist organizations were witnessed in Skopje and other urban centers. The protests were incited by the Prespa Agreement with Greece, under which the country will legally change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia in exchange for the removal of Greek opposition to joining the EU and NATO.

Protesters denounced PM Zoran Zaev’s decision to resolve the long-standing dispute with Greece due to the multiple concessions during negotiations and perceptions of a change in the country’s national character. Clashes between protesters, mainly members of nationalist organizations, and police were reported surrounding the Parliament and other government buildings in Skopje.

The agreement was ratified by the North Macedonian parliament on January 11. Protests have temporarily abated as political attention has been focused on the Presidential elections. The first round on April 21 resulted in no clear winner, with both the VMRO-DPMNE and government-backed candidates garnering 42 percent of the vote. The second round of the elections on May 5 resulted in a victory for the ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) candidate, Stevo Pendarovski with 51 percent of the total vote. VMRO-DPMNE officials immediately denounced the election results due to claims of voter manipulation.

Leaders & Protest groups in North Macedonia

Presidential elections highlight political polarization, protests expected to restart

Following the results of the Presidential elections and the possibility of both NATO and the EU calling for further concessions during membership negotiations, protests led by the VMRO-DPMNE could see a resurgence. Judging by VMRO-DPMNE officials immediately denouncing the election results, allegations of electoral fraud and corruption are liable to continue to be levied against Zaev’s administration. The VMRO-DPMNE will likely call on their supporters and members of nationalist organizations to stage demonstrations in urban centers, possibly motivated by President-elect Pendarovski’s approval of laws surrounding the name deal such as the changing of signs and constitutional amendments.

Instances of unrest stemming from nationalist organizations remain a distinct possibility going forward as nationalist elements have been galvanized by Zaev’s concessions during talks with Athens. Additionally, the VMRO-DPMNE could call for demonstrations if further party members are detained on allegations of corruption, as has occurred several times in recent years.

Serbia

On December 8, 2018, the first anti-government protest was staged in Belgrade following an attack on the leader of the Levica Srbije party, Borko Stefanovic, in Krusevac, by unidentified assailants. The protests have continued and recorded crowds in the high thousands in Belgrade. The protest movement has manifested under the banner of “1od5Milliona” (One of Five million), which is a play on President Aleskander Vucic’s statement to the initial protest in which he said he would not compromise even if there were five million people in the street. The movement has spread to other major cities such as Nis and Novi Sad. Protesters are calling for the immediate resignation of President Aleskander Vucic of the ruling Srpska Napredna Stranka (SNS) party amid accusations of the manipulation of media and an increase in political violence.

On February 6, the opposition parties announced their intention to boycott parliament and proposed a manifesto containing reforms based on protesters’ demands. The protests were initially peaceful, however, on March 16 protesters attempted to enter the New Palace, the seat of the Presidency, as Vucic was inside, as well as the offices of the state broadcaster. Opposition leaders have reportedly given the government a May 4 deadline in order to heed their demands for widespread reforms.

President Vucic has stated that SNS officials are willing to call snap elections in order to gauge their popularity. On April 19, thousands convened in Belgrade for a pro-government rally.

Leaders & Protest Groups in Serbia

Vucic to remain in power despite mass protest movement due to entrenched support and opposition disunity

Anti-government demonstrations in Belgrade and other urban centers are unlikely to abate unless President Aleskander Vucic accepts demands for widespread reforms or calls snap elections. Instances of unrest cannot be ruled out with protesters expected to gather at known focal points in Belgrade, such as the New Palace, the National Assembly, the public broadcaster’s office, and the University of Belgrade’s campus. Any allegations of media suppression or acts of political violence could incite larger turnouts and heighten the disaffection towards the Vucic.

If Vucic does not adequately respond to protesters demands following the May 4 deadline, demonstrations are liable to increase in both frequency and size. This increased pressure could lead Vucic to instruct Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to dissolve the government and call snap elections. As with protests against Vucic in 2017, which arose due to accusations of voter and media manipulation, the current wave of protests may lead to little substantial change and are liable to eventually be discontinued.

Judging by Presidential elections in 2017, where Vucic secured 53 percent of the total vote, and the relatively smaller attendance at anti-government demonstrations outside Belgrade, the SNS would likely maintain their sizeable majority in parliament in snap elections. In such a scenario, political instability could arise from protest groups refusing to accept the results and accusing Vucic of manipulating results.

G20 Buenos Aires summit 2018 – November 30-December 1 – Argentina Special Analysis

Written and edited by Federico Sujarchuk and Ollie Wiltshire

Executive Summary

Between November 30 and December 1, Argentina will hold the 13th leaders’ summit of the Group of Twenty (G20) in Buenos Aires.

A number of security checkpoints will be established on the roads that lead to the complex hosting the summit and in the vicinity of the hotels where the heads of state and government will be staying.

Anarchist and left-wing groups are expected to hold mass protests throughout the city, many of which will lead to significant instances of violence.

Major disruptions to traffic and business continuity will occur due to security provisions, protests, roadblocks, and public closures during the summit.

Travel to Buenos Aires can continue while maintaining vigilance for an increase in violent crime and protests between November 30-December 1.

Avoid all protests given the potential for violence.

Please be advised

G20 summit

Between November 30 and December 1, Argentina will hold the 13th leaders’ summit of the Group of Twenty (G20). The meeting will be the first-ever G20 summit to be hosted in South America and the most high-profile multilateral event ever held in Argentina.

The city will reportedly host 8,000 summit participants, including foreign leaders, ministers, politicians, and officials. Moreover, at least 2,500 journalists have been granted clearance to cover the event and around 1,000 people will work on the summit’s logistics. The leaders of 19 member nations, plus the European Union, and seven guest nations will meet in Buenos Aires’ Costa Salguero complex, located in the Palermo neighborhood, less than a kilometer away from Jorge Newbery International Airport (AEP).

Official security around the summit

A number of security checkpoints will be established on the roads that lead to the complex and in the vicinity of the hotels where the heads of state and government will be staying. These include Arroyo Street, Avenida Dorrego, Avenida del Libertador, Avenida Alvear, Avenida Ramos Mejia, and Avenida Sarmiento. Moreover, a number of key roads and highways will be closed off to the public for the duration of the summit. These include Avenida 9 de Julio, Avenida Figueroa Alcorta, and Illia and Lugones highways. Subway and other rail services will not operate during the summit. A bolstered security presence has also been confirmed in the downtown area, as well as the neighborhoods of Puerto Madero, Recoleta, and Retiro, where a number of dignitaries will be staying.

Buenos Aires’ Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP) airport and El Palomar Airport (EPA), the city’s recently inaugurated low-cost airport, will be closed to commercial and civil flights between November 29 and December 1. Ezeiza International Airport (EZE), Argentina’s main international airport, is expected to remain open, though its service will be affected by the summit.

Maritime restrictions will be in place between November 29 and December 2 when the commercial port of Buenos Aires will suspend operations. All recreational sailing activities in the Rio de la Plata, as well as parts of the nearby Tigre Delta, will be banned for the duration of the summit. That said, passenger ferry services operating to and from the Buquebus Terminal in the Puerto Madero neighborhood are not slated to be affected.

Over 20,000 police personnel, plus an undisclosed number of military personnel, will be participating in security operations associated with the summit. November 30 will be declared a public holiday in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area in order to ease foot and vehicular traffic.

Opposition actions

A counter-summit with prominent speakers such as former Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, the leader of the Spanish far-left Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, and the leader of the far-left La France Insoumise party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, took place in Buenos Aires on November 19-23, the week before the G20 summit.

A number of unions, local and international anarchist groups, and far-left groups associated with former President Cristina Kirchner have announced their intention to hold protests against not only the G20 Summit itself, but also against the presence of International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Christine Lagarde, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and US President Donald Trump. According to reports citing Argentinian security officials, at least 33 protests are planned to take place throughout Buenos Aires during the summit, with over 100 local and international groups participating. The exact time and location of many protests have not been disclosed as of the time of writing and other smaller or unannounced protests are expected to occur.

On November 14, two attempted pipe bomb attacks were recorded in Buenos Aires. The first took place in the Belgrano neighborhood, where one individual was reportedly arrested after throwing a pipe bomb into the house of a judge who is currently investigating former President Cristina Kirchner in a number of high-profile corruption cases. Authorities reportedly defused it shortly afterward. The second attempt took place on the same day in the Recoleta neighborhood cemetery, where two individuals were wounded and subsequently arrested when a pipe bomb they were placing in the mausoleum of a controversial historical figure exploded unintentionally.

On November 15, ten individuals were arrested in a squatter house used by anarchists in Pavon Street, San Cristobal neighborhood over the November 14 attempted pipe bomb attacks.

Background

Argentinian political landscape in the run-up to the G20 summit

The 2018 Buenos Aires G20 summit comes amid a marked deterioration in the economic situation in Argentina over the last six months, partly due to a costly drought in the country’s farm belt 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 has become one of the world’s worst-performing currencies in 2018. This situation, in turn, exacerbated the country’s inflation, which is expected to reach a rate of 45 percent in 2018.

This financial situation has prompted President Macri to request a USD 57 billion standby loan from the IMF and accept the required cuts to public spending. As such, and considering that the IMF is widely disliked in the country, perceived by many to be one of the main causes of the last economic collapse of Argentina in 2001, President Macri’s approval rating fell from over 45 percent to 35 percent in November. With regards to these developments, social movements and labor unions, including Argentina’s largest union, the Confederacion General del Trabajo (CGT), have regularly taken to the streets to protest, with participation often reaching into the high thousands.

The G20 Summit and its symbolic importance for the anti-globalization movement

Violent protests by the anti-globalization movement, a catch-all social movement critical of free trade and consumer capitalism, have become a common feature of G20 & G7-8 summits since the mid-1990s. Multilateral summits are perceived by supporters of the anti-globalization movement as a powerful symbol of the shortcomings of the current system of global governance. These summits also provide a valuable opportunity for the movement’s supporters to make use of the public and international spotlight and bring further attention to their cause.

This situation is evidenced by the fact that widespread unrest has been witnessed in several multilateral summits, such as the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) Seattle summit, which is perceived as a pivotal moment in the formation and consolidation of the anti-globalization protest movement. Widespread unrest was also witnessed in the 2001 Genoa G8 Summit, the 2010 G20 Toronto summit, the 2011 G20 Cannes summit, and, most recently, the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit, which recorded a level of unrest rarely seen in modern Germany.

Assessments & Forecast

Expected disruptions in BA’s Belgrano, Nunez, Palermo, Puerto Madero, and Retiro neighborhoods

Considering that the Illia and Lugones highways, as well as Avenida Figueroa Alcorta, will all be closed to the general public, widespread traffic disruptions will likely occur in the Belgrano, Nunez, Palermo, and Retiro neighborhoods. Although in Belgrano and Nunez only areas adjacent to the closed roads will likely be affected by the summit, in Palermo, Recoleta, and Retiro more areas are likely to be affected besides those in the immediate vicinity of the highways and Avenida Figueroa Alcorta.

In Palermo, Recoleta, and Retiro, Avenida del Libertador is likely to be at least partially blocked to traffic given that is one of the major routes that link the Costal Salguero complex, where the summit will take place, with the hotel areas where several dignitaries will be staying. Moreover, in Palermo, Puerto Madero, Recoleta, and Retiro, locations in the vicinity of large upscale hotels are liable to be closed to both vehicular and foot traffic, given the likelihood of summit participants staying there. Additionally, considering that unconfirmed reports claim that a gala dinner with all of the attending leaders will take place at Teatro Colon, much of the downtown area of Buenos Aires is likely to be closed off to non-residents during the evening hours on November 30.

Taking into account that strikes disrupting commercial aviation have intensified in recent months, the possibility that a strike disrupting air trafficking control services takes place during the summit cannot be ruled out. On November 12, the head of the Asociacion de Pilotos de Lineas Aereas (APLA) union claimed that the union may carry out a 72-hour strike during the summit, leaving open the possibility that other unions in the air sector could join an APLA-led strike if the government ignores their requests over labor-related issues. Nonetheless, government sources have confirmed that, if this were the case, personnel from the Fuerza Aerea Argentina (FAA) could take control of air trafficking services if necessary. Aerolineas Argentinas workers affiliated to aviation workers’ unions announced their intent to hold a 24-hour strike on November 26, although over unrelated issues.

Violent protests expected throughout Buenos Aires, particularly in neighborhoods bordering restricted areas

Considering the expected number of protesting groups, coupled with their organizing capacity and sizeable support bases, particularly the unions and far-left groups associated with Cristina Kirchner, it is likely that the turnout for the anti-G20 protests will be in the mid-to-high tens of thousands for the two-day summit. Given that protestors will not be able to reach the premises of the summit, it is likely that the protests will take place in traditional points for such protests, including Plaza del Congresos, Plaza de Mayo, outside the Presidential Palace, and near the Obelisk. Protests are also likely to take place outside the Brazilian, German, UK, and US embassies.

If the areas in the vicinity of the aforementioned locales remain closed off to the general public, as unconfirmed reports suggest, these protests will likely be moved to nearby areas outside of the no-go zones. As such, neighboring districts that would have only experienced disruptions, such as Belgrano, Palermo, and parts of Recoleta, will likely see increased protests and unrest. Considering precedent of the previous G20 in Hamburg, coupled with the heightened anti-government sentiment within sectors of Argentinian society, there is a high potential for localized acts of violence, particularly vandalism against private businesses associated with Western multinationals.

Due to the high-profile nature of the event, if the protests turn violent, a crackdown by security forces is likely, including the use of tear gas and other forcible dispersal measures, such as rubber bullets. This assessment is underscored by the police reportedly forming a “special command center” to jointly monitor the events with the military and the government, placing all security forces directly under the command of the Ministry of Defense for the duration of the summit, something unseen since the return of democracy to the country in 1983.

There is also an elevated risk of protesters mounting roadblocks at the various entry points to the city that will not be closed off by authorities, such as 9 de Julio highway, 25 de Mayo highway, Avenida General Paz, Dellepiane highway, Perito Moreno highway, and Riccieri In such instances, security forces are liable to carry out mass arrests and forcibly disperse protesters.

In light of the previous IED attempts carried out by various anarchist elements, the potential remains that additional groups will attempt to detonate bombs during the summit. However, given the known capabilities of these groups and the unprecedented levels of security in the city, it is unlikely that any such explosions will affect the summit or cause significant damage or injury. Rather, the likelihood remains that they will either be neutralized prior to explosion or cause low-level superficial damage, akin to vandalism.

Given the number of foreign nationals expected to arrive in the city, coupled with the fact that Buenos Aires’ security forces will likely be overstretched, an uptick in opportunistic crime is liable during the summit and the following days. Tourist neighborhoods such as La Boca, Palermo Soho, the area around the Recoleta cemetery, and San Telmo are likely to be the main areas affected by such crime.

Effects of the G20 Summit on Argentina’s political landscape

Given that this will be one of the most high-profile multilateral events ever held in Argentina, if properly organized, the summit has the potential to improve President Macri’s public image, and further cement the perception of a structural change in Argentinian foreign policy since the Kirchner era. As such, the G20 summit has the potential to help position the country as a Western facing regional leader in South America, particularly considering the ongoing political situation in Brazil and the reputation of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. Moreover, given that Argentina’s main current source of external financing is the IMF, and considering the clout that Western powers have over the IMF’s decision-making process, a properly organized G20 Summit could have a positive effect regarding Argentina’s political capital in future fiscal negotiations.

That said, the possibility remains that, if the protests get out of hand and security forces end up using excessive force, the summit could erode President Macri’s standing internationally and domestically. In light of the heightened political tensions between the government and the supporters of former President Cristina Kirchner, and the consistent deterioration of the economic situation throughout 2018, this potential scenario would almost certainly devolve into more violent demonstrations throughout December

Recommendations

Summit Recommendations

Travel to Buenos Aires can continue while maintaining vigilance for an increase in violent crime and protests between November 30-December 1. Avoid all protests given the potential for violence.

Avoid nonessential travel to the Belgrano, Palermo, Puerto Madero, Recoleta, and Retiro neighborhoods, as well as around the Brazilian, Germany, UK, and US Embassies in the event of protests.

Avoid nonessential travel via Avenida General Paz, Dellepiane Highway, Perito Moreno Highway, Riccieri Highway, 9 de Julio Highway, and 25 de Mayo Highway in the event of protests.

Allot for disruptions to pedestrian and vehicular traffic in Belgrano, Palermo, Puerto Madero, Recoleta, and Retiro neighborhoods, due to the slated road closures and the possibility of security checkpoints.

General Recommendations

Foreign nationals and visitors are advised to increase vigilance against possible crime in light of the potential for attacks by criminal networks targeting foreigners and high profile individuals.

If confronted by muggers, it is advised to cooperate fully and not engage in any behavior that could raise tensions and lead to violence.

Travelers should avoid exposing jewelry or other items that may make them a target for theft. Store your valuables in your hotel room safe.

Refrain from divulging travel itinerary information to strangers.

As a general security precaution, avoid revealing to strangers your position or affiliation with foreign-based firms, as your response could attract a negative reaction from locals.

Take necessary precautions to ensure business continuity during the event, given that various government offices and other public services may experience disruptions.

Allot extra time for travel, due to likely traffic and public transportation congestion resulting from the summit. Seek alternative means of transportation.

Political instability increases after Supreme Court orders immediate release of nine opposition leaders – Maldives Analysis

Current Situation

Political instability increases after Supreme Court orders immediate release of nine opposition leaders - Maldives Analysis | MAX Security

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On February 1, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions of nine opposition leaders including the former President Mohamed Nasheed and reinstated 12 members of the Parliament who had been stripped of their posts. In its verdict, it stated that the prosecutors and judges were influenced “to conduct politically motivated investigations” against them. The Supreme Court’s ruling stated that all those named “should be freed immediately in order to facilitate the retrial and investigation of the cases according to law”.

The ruling drew wide international support from the US, EU, and UN. India, which rarely issues statements regarding Maldivian domestic political developments, stated that it was “imperative for all organs of the government of the Maldives to respect and abide by the order of the apex court.” Nasheed, who took political asylum in the UK following charges of terrorism leveled against him in 2015, welcomed the court order and stated that President Yameen must resign, mentioning that he would soon return to the country to contest elections.

In the minutes following the verdict, the nation’s police force indicated that it would obey the Supreme Court ruling. Shortly after, President Abdulla Yameen fired the chief of police.

On February 3, Attorney General Mohamed Anil reiterated his intention to comply with the order, stating that they were “working at top speed” to move the process forward. However, he did add that the government had several “legal concerns” and that the offenses in some of the cases were very serious, including charges of terrorism, embezzlement, and fraud. During the press conference, both the Defense Minister and army chief were present. At the time of writing, over two days after the court ruling was issued, the Abdulla Yameen government has yet to begin implementing the order.

In response to the recent developments, hundreds of people rallied in the capital Male on February 1 and February 2, calling on the President to comply with the order. At the protest in front of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) headquarters, police used violent riot dispersal measures to break up the gatherings. Two people were arrested. Other protests were reported at the Male Prison and along Majeedhee Magu Road, the latter of which was also forcefully dispersed.

Assessments & Forecast

Specter of political instability significantly increases as government’s next move, loyalty of security apparatus remain unclear

The government’s ambiguous position regarding the enforcement of the court ruling has significantly elevated the specter of instability in the country. The statements from the attorney general suggest that the government will adhere to the decision. However, the removal of the police chief and apparent slowness in complying with the order suggests that President Yameen may be using this time in the immediate aftermath of the ruling to consolidate power ahead of a possible reversal of this compliance.

The security apparatus appears split on its support for the current administration. While the former police chief indicated that the police would comply, following his removal from office, opposition protesters were violently dispersed. Additionally, the Defense Minister and army chief’s conspicuous presence at the attorney general’s press conference may have been an indication that the defense establishment has still not completely abandoned the Yameen administration.

Ultimately, both the military and police may comply with the ruling due largely to international pressure. The West has become increasingly concerned with Yameen’s close relationship with China, and Nasheed has consistently been highly critical of Beijing’s influence on the country. India, arguably the most threatened by increasing Chinese influence in the Maldives, appears especially resolute, and its rare, relatively strong statement of support for the court ruling suggests that it is considering the possibility of intervention to ensure that the verdict is enforced and as a pretext to reassert its influence.

President Yameen likely stalling enforcement of verdict in attempt to consolidate power, plan next moves

Aware of his limited recourse, President Yameen is likely attempting to stall the process over the coming days as a means of exploring his potential options. The language of the ruling is unclear but suggests that the court has only found fault with the procedures but not the charges. As such, the government may attempt to seek to immediately reopen trials against them in more legally acceptable methods and will release them only after consultation with the Supreme Court and negotiations regarding the logistics of their release. In order to buy more time, President Yameen may cancel the opening session of parliament, currently slated February 5.

FORECAST: For President Yameen, staying in the country after allowing the lawmakers to return could be a potential risk, as the opposition, which will then have a simple majority, could petition for a probe into a number of allegedly corrupt activities he has carried out, including the recent trials themselves. It would likely still be difficult for the opposition to successfully muster enough political support for impeachment proceedings, which would require two-thirds majority. However, should the lawmakers be released, and Nasheed return to the country from his exile, the opposition would likely be favored to win the elections that are slated to take place later this year if they successfully capitalize on the anti-Yameen sentiment over ongoing events.

FORECAST: In fear of these seeming inevitabilities and the potential that the military and police apparatus may succumb to external pressures, it remains entirely possible that President Yameen will oblige opposition requests to step down and take refuge overseas, which would most likely happen in China, Saudi Arabia, or Singapore.

Political instability increases after Supreme Court orders immediate release of nine opposition leaders - Maldives Analysis | MAX Security

Violent protests likely to continue in Male as opposition attempt to pressure government, major tourist areas likely to remain insulated from unrest

Until the positions of the Supreme Court, security apparatus, ruling government become more clear, the situation on the ground will remain highly tense. In order to continue exerting pressure on the ruling party, opposition leaders will only increase their calls for protest until the government takes more concrete steps in carrying out the court’s ruling. This will put the police in a difficult position and may compel its leadership to clarify their position on the developments by their reaction to future demonstrations. As long as the police, in its actions, remains on the side of the government, the dispersal of any gatherings in the immediate future are likely to be similarly violent to what was witnessed on February 2.

Regardless of major instability among the local population in Male, international tourism remains the cornerstone of the Maldivian economy. Like similar instances of widespread unrest in the past, the military will like take concerted efforts to prevent any sort of unrest from reaching heavily touristed areas, which are mostly insulated from the rest of the country and far outside of the capital.

Recommendations

Travel to the Maldives and the capital Male can continue while maintaining heightened vigilance because of existing tensions relating to the country’s political situation.

Those operating in Male should avoid the immediate vicinity of any political gatherings given the high likelihood that they may devolve into unrest. MDP offices and Artificial Beach should be considered flash points for such activity and avoided when possible.

If confronted by security forces, it is advised to cooperate fully and not engage in any behavior that could raise tensions and lead to violence.

Those planning on traveling to the Maldives are advised to contact us at [email protected] or +44 20-3540-0434 for itinerary-based consultation and contingency planning.