The Week Ahead: 29 October – 4 November

The Week Ahead: 29 October – 4 November

Australian Government thrown into confusion and paralysis as deputy prime minister disqualified. Iran to privatize gas stations. Australia and South Korea stage joint military exercise. Kenya awaits election results as low turnout makes Kenyatta reelection more likely. All in The Week Ahead. 

Australian Government paralysed as deputy prime minister disqualified

  • Last Thursday, the Australian High Court ruled that deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and 4 other members of parliament were disqualified from holding office due to their dual citizenship with New Zealand, causing Malcolm Turnbull to lose his 1-seat majority in parliament.
  • Joyce, as well as the other MPs, will be able to recontest their seats in a byelection in early December and Joyce is likely to be reelected in his constituency. The other 4 to lose their seats are members of the Senate and are dual citizens of the UK, New Zealand, and Canada, 2 of whom are Green members and 1 each National and One Nation.
  • Unlike Joyce, the senators are expected to be replaced by people from party lists and not require byelections, though one, Fiona Nash, is expected to contest her seat.

GRI take: Turnbull’s government can continue with the support of independent Cathy McGowen, though for the next few months it is not likely to move forward with any major, controversial legislation.

Iran to privatize gas stations, testing growth prospects 

  • This week, the Iranian Privatization Organization will privatize a number of consumer gas stations. This move follows a previous amendment to the Iranian constitution to allow for privatization under Article 44. Last December, 26 Iranian companies obtained licenses to operate gas stations, with nearly 30 more submitting applications to operate their own privately-owned gas stations.
  • Roughly 5% of Iran’s 3600 gas stations are owned by the Iranian government, so the overarching economic impact is not expected to be particularly substantial. However, it is a sign of the Iranian government moving away from distribution and more toward production and other products, like natural gas.
  • The liberalization of the gas station market is also likely to lead to the rise in the number of gas stations, which could yield tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of economic production. There is room for expansion: while the US has about one gas station per 2,600 residents, in Iran it’s 22,000 to 1.

GRI take: Despite the prospect of the US abandoning the Iranian nuclear deal, the EU looks determined to keep it in place. While a small step, gas station privatization will be an indicator of whether a broader uptick and liberalization of the Iranian economy continues to be likely under these conditions.

Australia and South Korea stage joint military exercise

  • This week, the South Korean and Australian navies are set to stage a joint military exercise to strengthen relations and present a unified front against North Korea.
  • The exercises come on the heels of reports from South Korea that classified wartime plans between South Korea and the United States were stolen by North Korean hackers. One of these included a plan for US forces to take control of South Korean troops in a joint endeavor following a North Korean attack.
  • Previously, in response to the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise between South Korea and the US in August, the North Korean government blustered that Australia’s joint participation in computer simulations was “suicidal”.

GRI take: North Korea has hinted at further missile launches, although verbal threats are more likely this week.

Kenya awaits election results as low turnout makes Kenyatta reelection more likely

  • Last Thursday and Saturday, Kenyan voters headed back to the polls to redo the presidential election that was invalidated in early September by the Kenyan Supreme Court. The ruling had noted a host of irregularities, many of which appeared to have reoccurred in some form last week.
  • Reports that more than 10% of polling stations failed to open, delays of voting in the western counties, and riot police firing on protesters were all noted in last week’s elections. Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for a boycott of the reelection vote, saying it would not be fair. This led to substantial tensions between Kenyatta and Odinga supporters on election day and reports of violence across the country. It also led to a marked decline in voter turnout.
  • The Supreme Court received a request to weigh in on the Thursday election last Wednesday, but 5 of the 7 justices failed to show up and thus did not have a quorum to consider the case.

GRI take: Odinga’s call for a boycott means that his base will contest the legitimacy of Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, regardless of the final vote tally and the Supreme Court signing off on the results. This creates a heightened risk of continued protests and political instability.

Stay ahead of the news cycle with GRI. Drawing on expert knowledge and local sources, The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the consequences of key upcoming political developments.
This edition of The Week Ahead was produced by GRI Senior Analyst Brian Daigle and Senior Editor Luke Iott.

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