Watchlist: Forecasting Elections in Malawi, India, and Ukraine

Week of April 8th, 2019


Malawi President Peter Mutharika Launches Re-Election Campaign

This past Sunday, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi's Democratic Progressive Party announced his re-election campaign. The nation will hold presidential elections next month wherein the 78 year old Mutharika will run in hopes of maintaining his current position, which he has held since 2014. During his time in power, Mutharika has faced a steady stream of allegations of corruption and nepotism, including using government contracts for his own personal and financial gain. The President has dismissed these accusations as being "fake news". Other important factors which face Mutharika and his campaign are the country's persistent food and energy shortages, which have been a significant problem since the beginning of Mutharika's time in power. Lastly, Mutharika will also have to contend with rifts within his own party- the Democratic Progressive Party. Most recently, his own vice president, Saulos Chilima, publicly attacked Murtharika and announced his resignation, citing his frustration at the continuing nepotism and corruption within the party. Next month's elections will no doubt be eventful both for Murtharika and the future of Malawi. SELIN LEVI

President Peter Murtharika will run in Malawi's May 2019 elections in hopes of maintaining power.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Asia Pacific

India Prepares for Major Elections on April 11th

India’s elections begin on April 11, and the results will say a lot about the direction of the country. Many analysts believe the election will serve as a litmus test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s divisive style of governing. Modi is running for a second 5-year term with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing party, which has been accused of encouraging Hindu nationalism and stoking anti-Muslim sentiment. Modi’s main competition is Rahul Gandhi, who is president of India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, a center-left part. However, pundits believe Modi will win a second term, as it is unlikely Gandhi’s party will gain a majority in parliament. While Modi seemed vulnerable earlier this year, due to slowing economic growth and high rates of unemployment, many believe that India’s recent tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir, a disputed territory in the northernmost part of India, has reinforced nationalism in a rally-around-the-flag effect. The elections will be conducted in seven phases, with polls closing on May 19 and a ballot count on May 23. The last elections in 2014 were devastating for Congress, since the BJP won a majority of seat in both the lower house (Lok Sabha) and the upper house (Rajya Sabha) of parliament, with a decisive majority in the lower house where they claim 282 out of 543 seats. The results from May 23rd, and how decisive they are, will determine the future tone of Indian and global politics. At least, for the next five years. ZAYNA SYED

Modi and BJP party members wave to supporters at a rally in 2013. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Former Ecuadorian Leader Accused of Accepting Foreign Money to Disrupt Successor's Government

As of March 2019, it has been reported that the Venezuelan government, under the instruction of president Nicolas Maduro, allegedly gave approximately $281,000 to a foundation run by former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa in an effort to encourage Correa and his associates to subvert the political legitimacy of the current Ecuadorian government under president Lenin Moreno. Although Moreno won election in 2017 with Correa’s support, the two world leaders had a falling out soon after Moreno’s inauguration, with Correa accusing Moreno of “betraying the ideals” for Correa’s imagined 21st century socialist republic, due to Moreno’s policy of ‘De-Correaization’ in Ecuadorian politics. The specific details about what exactly Venezuela expected Correa and his foundation to do in exchange for the money, or even whether or not the money itself was used by Venezuelan national bank BANDES to safely move Venezuelan finances to more stable currency, are still unclear at this point. However, more information is expected to surface in very near future as Moreno recently warned other South American leaders about potentially other attempts by Venezuela to “hurt their governments.” TUHIN CHAKRABORTY


An Unlikely Candidate Takes the Lead in Ukraine's Presidential Race

On March 31st, Ukraine held its first round of voting in this year’s presidential elections. Volodymyr Zelensky, a stand-up comedian and actor in a popular TV show about a teacher who becomes president, led the pack of 39 candidates with 30 percent of the vote. His next-closest opponent was the incumbent President Petro Poroschenko who trailed with roughly half that amount. Ukraine’s allies in the West worry about the country’s future in the hands of someone like Zelensky, seeing as he has never held political office. While he has promised to adopt a hard-line stance on Russian relations and pursue closer ties with the EU and the United States, he has not provided any details on his policy plans or his leadership team. Nevertheless, Zelensky appears to have dialed into an antiestablishment sentiment among the Ukrainian public, who are frustrated with the seeming lack of change after the 2014 revolution and view Zelensky’s outsider status favorably. Ukraine’s average monthly wages have fallen since 2013, and corruption remains rampant. Since no candidate received greater than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on April 21st to determine the final result, yet Zelensky’s prospects remain promising. DANIEL EVANS

Volodymyr Zelensky, pictured here in 2018, is an actor, comedian, and now presidential hopeful in Ukraine. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Middle East

Qatar Sues Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Luxembourg Banks

Today Qatar filed a court case against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Luxembourg for allegedly attempting to harm Qatar's economy by manipulating their currency, the riyal. The lawsuits were filed against the Saudi Samba Bank, the Emirati First Abu Dhabi Bank, and the Luxembourgian Banque Havilland. Qatar alleges that the banks planned to diminish the value of the riyal by submitting "fictitious and depreciated" quotes, thereby reducing international confidence in Qatar's economy and market. The accusation is the latest addition to series of diplomatic tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar following the Saudi-led economic boycott of Qatar which started in 2017. As of Monday, none of the three accused nations or banks have commented on the lawsuit. MAYA ZREIK

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