Weekly Analysis 30 September
Venezuela: Increasing obstacles to recall referendum trigger further unrest
After a long-awaited decision, the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced on 21 September the dates and guidelines of the second step towards a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. However, the pro-government agency banned the possibility of the poll taking place before January 2017, a key date that allows the ruling Socialist Party to remain in power regardless of the referendum’s results. Although the announcement has infuriated the electorate and triggered strikes and protests, the political crisis seems to have fragmented the opposition, leaving low prospects for the country’s economic and social recovery
United States: Structural failings in political system posing critical threat to competitiveness
As the world’s attention focused on the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a recent study of the risks posed by structural dysfunction within the US political system has received less focus. A survey of its alumni by the Harvard Business School has pointed to the US political system as the single greatest threat to the country’s economic future. The investigation’s findings point to the deep malaise within the US governance structure and the acute fears of the business community about the underlying threat it poses to competitiveness. Policy paralysis in critical areas such as infrastructure spending and reform of the tax code all threaten to compound the problem that have resulted in the current recovery from the financial crisis being the slowest since the 1940s.
South Korea: Anti-corruption law set to change business customs
On 28 September, the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act came into effect, aimed at curbing widespread corruption in the public sector. The law, also referred to as the “Kim Young-ran” law after the former judge who drafted it, will apply to approximately four million civil servants, including teachers, journalist, officials and their spouses. The Act targets the practice known as "jeopdae" – the entertaining of people for business purposes. Companies in South Korea will have to ensure their employees are informed of the new law and be up to date on corporate anti-corruption and bribery policies.
Russia: Rumoured resurrection of the KGB hints at plan to centralise power
Less than 24 hours after the Kremlin-backed United Russia party won an unsurprising and emphatic victory in the September parliamentary elections, reports emerged of major plans to completely restructure the current law enforcement system into one main centralised institution in the style of the KGB, the notorious Soviet intelligence agency. The rumoured new Ministry of State Security (MGB) – taking the name of Stalin’s political police – would almost exactly replicate the functions of the Soviet Union equivalent, absorbing most of the existing security departments, including the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Investigative Committee (SK), the Federal Guard Service (FSO) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), to resurrect a dominant intelligence structure. Mirroring the KGB, the only intelligence body external to the MGB will be the Main Intelligence Agency (GRU) of the Russian military.
Jordan: Shooting of Christian writer exposes sectarian concerns
On 25 September, a former Muslim preacher shot and killed prominent Christian writer Nahed Hattar in the Abdali district of central Amman. The shooting has triggered widespread domestic and international criticism, with protests over the killing held in Amman on 26 September. Furthermore, the shooting and the subsequent reaction threatens to act as a catalyst for sectarian tension between the majority Muslim population and the minority Christian community, which enjoys political and economic influence.
South Africa: Student protests highlight anger at government and systemic iniquity
From 20 September, three days of protests broke out at a number of university campuses across South Africa after the government announced a rise of up to 8 percent in 2017 tuition fees, markedly above the rate of inflation. Protests began at the University of the Witwatersrand, before spreading to the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Fort Hare in Eastern Cape and at the University of Cape Town, with protesters clashing with police and private security at a number of locations. Several universities have suspended classes owing to the demonstrations, which are the latest examples of direct action undertaken by student activist groups as part of the year-long ‘Fees Must Fall’ movement, which has seen in numerous protests held at university campuses.