Saturday, February 24

Saturday, February 24

EGYPTIAN ELECTION Presidential campaign begins despite lack of serious opposition   Few will take much notice when Egypt’s presidential campaign

EGYPTIAN ELECTION

Presidential campaign begins despite lack of serious opposition

egypt_election

Photo: AP/Amr Nabil

 

Few will take much notice when Egypt’s presidential campaign begins today, as incumbent President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi’s government has engaged in intensive efforts to force any serious challengers to either withdraw or face being detained by security forces.

Mr Sisi will face just one recognised candidate: Mousa Mostafa Mousa of the pro-government Ghad Party. There are questions about how Mousa managed to get on the ballot just minutes before the electoral deadline, suggesting his candidacy is designed to energise an otherwise heavily authoritarian exercise.

For the wider region, a re-election would bring about mutually sought out stability in relations and energy diplomacy between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel, especially as Mr Sisi aspires to develop Egypt into a regional energy hub. Re-election would also help ground confidence in an economy that has barely recovered from the 2011 revolution and is currently being assisted by an IMF package.

Without any legitimate contenders to challenge Sisi, his re-election is widely expected as well as continued efforts to consolidate his control over Egypt’s intelligence and military apparatus. The economic implications of re-election appear positive, but there is grave concern that this would come at the expense of the few domestic political and social rights remaining in post-revolution Egypt.

NORTH KOREA STANDOFF

China to release report on its trade with North Korea

China_NK_report

Photo: Getty/Kevin Frayer

With UN sanctions on North Korea at an all-time high, China is set to release a trade report detailing Beijing’s compliance. China appears determined to prove itself to the international community, with North Korean trade down 52% from one year ago.

Other nations, particularly the US, have criticised China’s positive relationship with Pyeongyang in the past, as China remains North Korea’s foremost trading partner. China, though, claims to be following through on UN sanctions of oil, coal, metals and agricultural products.

China’s compliance efforts have been hampered by a number of incidents of sanction-busting operations. Chinese and North Korean vessels were spotted carrying out ship-to-ship transfers of oil just two days ago. China, for its part, has condemned these sanction-violating activities.

It is likely that China has not complied with sanctions exactly as it claims to have. Expect China to maintain some unofficial trade with North Korea, drawing criticism, especially from the US, which released its harshest sanctions to date yesterday. All the same, China is making a concerted effort to distance itself from North Korea, a major paradigm shift.

ITALIAN POLITICS

Eurosceptics rally across Milan

Lega_nord_protesters

Photo: AP/Riccardo De Luca

Supporters of the League will gather in Milan today for a rally headlined by leader Matteo Salvini ahead of Italy’s March 4 general election.

Originally formed to support Northern Italian separatism, Salvini has transformed the League into a nationwide right-wing party as he bids for the premiership. This year, he struck “Northern” from the party’s name, hoping his “Italians first” platform of euroscepticism and deporting 500,000 undocumented migrants will win his party new voters in the south.

However, Salvini’s personal ambitions may yet be curbed: polling consistently shows his party placing behind Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia within the “centre-right” electoral coalition. In that event, Berlusconi would prefer a prime minister from his own party, perhaps European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. Even if the League placed ahead, Salvini’s extremism could prove too toxic for Forza Italia’s more moderate members to make him prime minister.

Expect the League to increase its vote share. How big those gains are beyond its traditional northern base will indicate how much other politicians must attune themselves to Mr Salvini’s anti-migrant message.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA POVERTY

APEC Officials meet for the first time despite issues in host city

pns_agriculture

Photo:Alamy/Hemis

Today, the Senior Official Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will meet in Port Moresby.

Though a member for 25 years, Papua New Guinea’s is hosting APEC for its first time. The economic forum’s 21 countries across the Pacific Rim represent 55% of the world’s GDP and nearly half of its total trade. Officials see hosting the event as an opportunity to attract further investment to the country’s agricultural sector, one of its biggest exports.

But challenges accompany hosting some of the world’s most influential economic meetings in a country where nearly 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. The capital is facing a shortage of hotel rooms while security and transportation are also stretched thin.

Leading up to APEC’s main event, its November summit, Papua New Guinea will likely continue hedging the bet that increased private sector growth will outweigh heavy government spending. However, expect much of the revenue to be sucked up by large corporate hotels and transportation services, leaving little for the local businesses of the country.