May 2017

Adama Barrow’s New Presidency | Gambia Risk Report: A New Dawn?

On 1st December 2016, Gambia had what some might call its first “real” presidential election. A strong and united group of opposition parties, led by Adama Barrow, was able to defeat the incumbent autocrat, Yahya Jammeh, who had sat in power since 1994. While initially accepting the results, Jammeh would change face and dispute the results, triggering a constitutional crisis that was only thwarted following military and political pressure from several countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The result was cheered by international commentators and Gambians alike. The result was of particular significance for those Gambians who had fled to Europe during the past 20 years in an attempt to flee persecution under Jammeh’s rule. Many see Barrow’s victory as a critical juncture in Gambia’s future.

Aid channels that had been previously shut during the last few years of Jammeh’s rule – either by the humanitarian organisations of Jammeh himself – have slowly started to reopen. Political prisoners have been released from jails, and press freedoms have been greatly increased.

Latin American and European Populism: Expanding Horizons

Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have provided a rude awakening for many in Europe who had ignored the challenge of populism. As Europe braces itself for what will likely be a tumultuous future, considering other sources of valuable experience will become paramount.

In The Economist, Bello has recently pointed out the familiarity to Latin Americans of the type of populist nationalism espoused by the likes of Trump, with current techniques and narratives pulled straight from the “Latin American Manual”. However, and despite its rich populist history, the Latin American experience has often been overlooked. Those wishing to understand and counter in Europe and elsewhere would be wise to consider it.

Three lessons stand out. First, Latin America exemplifies the issues of a simplistic understanding of populism. Second, the region shows populism is persistent and more often than not has damaging consequences. Finally, Latin America has vast experience with post-truth politics, and confronting populism is impossible without tackling the post-truth politics that underpin it.

Iranian Election: Succession Primer

In the short, 38-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, not a single incumbent president has lost a reelection campaign. Well, of the six presidents that have won an Iranian election and thus presided over the Islamic republic, one was impeached and another assassinated. Ignoring those unlucky two, the slim legacy of the remaining four presidents may gain another to its ranks. On May 19th, Iranians will head to the polls to decide the future direction of a country that stands at a crossroad, with the incumbent president and moderate Hassan Rouhani fighting off a challenge from a ‘Principalist‘ candidate, Ebrahim Raisi . Most recently polled at 42%, Rouhani must achieve at least 50% of the vote, or else he faces a May 26th runoff. Ultimately, the future Iranian president will wield considerable influence in the shaping of foreign policy, the domestic economy, and the succession of the Supreme Leader.

Thoughts on the French Election: Preserving the Le Pen Family Legacy of Losing

With the first round of the French presidential election now complete, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are headed to a runoff vote on Sunday in the next stage of a contentious election cycle. The first round provided unsurprising results, with polls remarkably close to the outcomes seen in April. If such polling remains accurate, especially in light of Macron’s debate performance on Wednesday, the En Marche! candidate may soon take the mantle of the French Presidency by a 60% margin. Regardless, there are a number of important caveats that could spoil Macron’s lead.

It is without a doubt, however, that Le Pen will surely lose the election. The odds are increasingly stacked against her, as various party leaders have recently come out in opposition to her candidacy. Following their concessions in the first round, the Republican candidate Francois Fillon and the Socialist party’s Benoit Hamon both endorsed Macron for the presidency, adding to a support base that already includes the current French President Francois Hollande. The Communist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who earned 19.6% of the first round vote, refused to endorse Macron but nevertheless urged his supporters to vote against Le Pen and her National Front party. Only Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, the leader of the Rise France party who earned 4.7% of the first round vote, has endorsed Le Pen from amongst the ranks of the losing candidates.