Weekly Analysis 7th October
Colombia: Colombian public rejects peace deal with FARC by narrow margin
On 2 October, the Colombian population rejected the peace agreement signed between President Juan Manuel Santos and the leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) just a week earlier. The unexpected result of the referendum contradicted all previous opinion polls, which had predicted a comfortable victory for Santos’s “Yes” campaign. The narrow margin, with 50.2 percent of voters rejecting the deal and 49.8 percent voting in favour of the agreement, leaves a fragmented country and an enormous uncertainty regarding the peace process and Colombia’s political stability.
From the beginning of the peace talks in Havana in 2012, right-wing opposition groups criticised the negotiations. Former president Alvaro Uribe, who launched a successful military offensive against FARC during his mandate from 2002-2010, became a leading figure of the movement opposing the talks. Throughout the four years of negotiations, the level of the public’s support fluctuated, although the failure to meet two self-imposed deadlines for an agreement earlier in 2016 led to increasing pessimism and public disbelief in the process. Nevertheless, the signing of the comprehensive deal on 26 September, which included the participation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and the majority of Latin American leaders in a ceremony in Cartagena, appeared to have opened a new chapter in a country that has suffered more than 52 years of conflict, causing more than 220,000 registered deaths, some 45,000 disappeared and eight million collateral victims, including almost six million internally displaced persons.
India: Bilateral tensions add to rising mood of nationalist hysteria
With rising unrest in Indian-controlled Kashmir and Pakistan outraged by Indian expressions of support for the Balochistan insurgency, tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are at a medium-term high. Nationalist rhetoric is approaching hysterical levels on both sides, leading to diverse risks for several sectors. At present, cultural exports such as sport and film face the most serious obstacles in the immediate term, with nationalists on both sides engaging in tit-for-tat bans against their neighbour, with Pakistani cinemas recently banning Indian films after the Indian film association had banned Pakistani actors, singers and technicians. Meanwhile, with emotions running high amid sporadic clashes along the Kashmir frontier, there is a risk of the cycle of violence escalating.
Austria: Vienna terrorism incident indicative of growing threat
On 29 September, a Turkish national was arrested after he reportedly attempted to ram a group of pedestrians with a vehicle on Quellenstraße, Vienna, at around 1100hrs local time. The assailant is believed to have shouted “Alluhu Akbar” at least twice during the incident, increasing speculation that it was an attempted terrorist attack linked to Islamist extremism. There were no reports of any injuries. The incident comes a year after a similar attack in Graz and as Austria has experienced a number of terrorism-related cases in recent weeks, suggesting the terrorism threat could be increasing.
Syria: New Aleppo offensive set to reinforce Assad regime
The breakdown of the 12 September ceasefire agreement has jeopardised hopes that a peaceful political settlement may be reached by the end of 2016. Contrarily, the newly launched Russian-backed government offensive in Aleppo has resulted in an escalation in civilian casualties and a number of limited territorial gains. The intensity of the new push on eastern Aleppo is in part a product of Russia’s fears of a more assertive US administration under presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In the wake of the ceasefire breakdown, the most likely scenario to emerge from the current conflict is a bolstered Assad regime, politically and military protected by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.