A year of change for the European Union?
The European Union, which still lacks a post-Brexit vision of itself, will be changing the leadership of almost all its leading institutions over the next few months. Candidates are already jostling for position to take over at the European Commission and the European Central Bank, and surprises could be in store. With non-mainstream parties likely to gain seats in the May European Parliament elections, the EU-27 seems headed for even less harmony and more dissension.
2019 Global Outlook: Europe’s year of living dangerously
There are plenty of signs of trouble ahead for the European Union in 2019. Unstable leadership, rampant populism, strikes and demonstrations, migration disputes, security challenges, Brexit, an economic slowdown and the makings of another financial crisis are just a few of the challenges that await. For EU institutions, perhaps the biggest test will come with the European Parliament elections in May, which could overturn the grand coalition that has governed the bloc since the 1980s.
Malaysia’s political transition: Mahathir to Anwar 2.0
Before his triumphant return to office at the unlikely age of 93, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a deal to hand over power after an interim period to his former deputy-turned-bitter rival Anwar Ibrahim. Both men left the timing vague, intent to avoid any repeat of the falling-out that led to Mr. Anwar’s imprisonment in 1999. It might take Dr. Mahathir more than two years to clean up the previous government’s mess, but Mr. Anwar seems content to wait.
Saudi Arabia’s key role in the Middle East
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has upset the Middle East’s geopolitical balance in two dimensions: the three-sided rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and stable monarchies in the region. For the Saudis, the crisis poses an unexpected opportunity to improve governance. For the West, it presents a choice between triggering chaos and a possible radical takeover, or helping the kingdom make a difficult transition.
Essay: As Russian history repeats itself, Putin becomes Yeltsin
Russia’s pension reform continues to reverberate in domestic politics. For the first time ever, President Vladimir Putin has assumed full personal responsibility for an unpopular decision that directly infringes on the lives of most Russians. The effects are already visible in his slumping popularity and in the startling results of gubernatorial elections in several regions. Mr. Putin could be looking for an electoral out as he follows the downhill path of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
Ukraine’s revolution nears a test
This may have been independent Ukraine’s last calm summer for a while. There will soon be a reckoning with what succeeded and what did not after the revolution of 2013-2014, during which the eyes of the world were on Kiev. Ukrainians will elect a president early next year, with parliamentary elections to follow in the fall. There are plentiful indications that their verdict on the post-Maidan political elites will be harsh.
Algeria’s ‘system’ hangs tough
Algeria seems headed down a road already taken by other resource-rich authoritarian countries like Venezuela. Low oil and gas prices have made it harder for a crony oligarchy to buy off the public with subsidies and benefits. Their latest expedient to stave off reforms is to use the central bank to fund a government stimulus program, but that only delays the day of reckoning.
What Lukashenko learned from Crimea
Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko is still coming to terms with what Russia’s intervention in Ukraine means for his own autocratic rule. Recent events in Armenia show that his overthrow might not occur on the back of Russian tanks, but via a hybridized “color” revolution capitalizing on social discontent. Lukashenko has responded by cozying up to the EU and easing pressure on the opposition at home, but it may not be enough to save him.
Russia’s new government shows tensions beneath the surface
It has become clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reelection means another term in office for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government. To some, the lack of new faces shows the regime is headed for a period of inertia and stagnation. This view is understandable, but it is wrong.
Sudan’s president is running out of carrots and sticks
The lifting of United States sanctions on Sudan is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the country’s economic recovery. To achieve that, President Omar al-Bashir must strike a tricky balance between economic reforms, political openness, internal stability and international goodwill. These preconditions, however, may clash with his political ambitions.