Tuesday, February 21

Tuesday, February 21

Mired in multiple crises, how long can Nigeria’s government hold out in the absence of its leader?

NOTICEABLY ABSENT: NIGERIA’S PRESIDENT

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As Nigeria’s parliament reconvenes on Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued absence will be painfully obvious. The president announced he was extending his medical leave indefinitely two weeks ago; he’s now spent more than a month in London, where he’s being treated for an unknown illness.

Amid the uncertainty, Nigeria’s well-supplied rumour mill has been working overtime; suggestions that the leader is gravely ill, or even dead, have been making the rounds on social media.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has stepped in to fill the presidential void and has done a commendable job. Last week, Mr Osinbajo made a well-received visit to the troubled Niger Delta region, Nigeria’s oil heartland. Earlier in February, he met with protestors to reassure them of the government’s commitment to shoring up the flailing economy.

But Nigeria faces huge headwinds – economic and otherwise – that require a strong, attentive and resolute leader. The country is in the midst of its first recession in 25 years, exacerbated by attacks on oil installations, low oil prices and an undervalued currency.

Before he disappeared, President Buhari presented parliament with a record $24 billion budget that he hoped would help pull the economy out of its predicament. Lawmakers will debate these spending measures on Tuesday’s sitting but will ultimately require the president’s signature to enact them. Just when Mr Buhari is able to provide that service remains to be seen.

Go deeper: Danger in the Niger Delta

LIES AND DEMOCRACY IN BOLIVIA

Photo: EPA

Photo: EPA

Tuesday marks one year since the rejection of a referendum that barred Bolivian President Evo Morales from running for a fourth term. Mr Morales and his supporters call this date the “day of lies” – a reference, they say, to the tactics used by the opposition to win the referendum.

Claims that Morales fathered a son with a young business woman and handed out favours to her employer marred the lead-up to last year’s vote. While the president admitted to the relationship and to fathering a son, he vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

The case is still very much at the heart of issues in Bolivia. Both the president and his ruling MAS Party have rejected the result of the referendum, saying they’ll find a legal way for Morales to run in 2019.

This could be risky. Recent polls show a majority of Bolivians are opposed to another Morales term. Meanwhile, the opposition has hit back, calling February 21 the “day of respect for democracy” and vowing to uphold the result of the 2016 referendum.

Go deeper: Bolivia’s president: the last leftist standing?

MACRON VISITS UK TO RALLY FRENCH EXPATS

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron will address supporters in London on Tuesday.

First-round polling data suggests that Macron’s support has dropped to 20%, level with conservative candidate Francois Fillon and trailing nationalist Marine Le Pen by six points. Despite this, both Fillon and Macron are predicted to beat the populist in a second-round vote, with pollsters giving Macron the better odds.

As a staunchly pro-Europe candidate, Mr Macron champions a hardline approach towards Brexit negotiations, a view he’s expected to bring to London on Tuesday. In particular, the Frenchman believes the UK shouldn’t expect special favours as it exits the EU and has ruled out the possibility of single market access, as well as access for London-based financial institutions.

Indeed, while Macron’s UK visit on Tuesday will be friendly, his election could be bad news for Theresa May’s government. She’ll be hoping for the similarly conservative, pro-business Fillon to ease the UK’s exit from the bloc.

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

Following leader (and former prime minister) Matteo Renzi’s resignation over the weekend, the country’s ruling Democratic Party will decide when to hold a leadership vote. Renzi has vowed to contest the ballot, where he’ll face off against leftist factions from within his own party.

Argentinian prosecutors are expected to request information from Brazil and Switzerland over allegations that the country’s top spy chief received a $600,000 bribe from Odebrecht – the construction company at the centre of an $800 million, region-wide graft scandal.

Top coal producers in China will hold talks on stabilising production.