The Week Ahead: 19 – 25 November

The Week Ahead: 19 – 25 November

Zimbabwe turmoil. Honduras elections. Nepal elections. UK budget. All in The Week Ahead.

Zimbabwe political system in state of limbo as Mugabe refuses to step down

  • What began as a confusing night in Harare turned into a “slow motion coup” to ease the 93-year old President Robert Mugabe out of power. Although the aging 37-year dictator seemed unlikely to spend many more years in power, he was widely believed to be preparing his wife Grace to replace him.
  • The removal the week before of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to provide a smooth transition from Mugabe to his wife (also a vice president) likely triggered the coup. This development was troubling because, in addition to Grace Mugabe’s widespread unpopularity for her extravagant spending habits in a country with real poverty, the international community had also viewed Mnangagwa as a stable actor in a frequently unstable country and region.
  • The military coup was also likely tipped by divisions within the ZANU-PF party, where a youth faction heavily in Grace Mugabe’s favor broke from the older faction that supports Mnangagwa and made ZANU-PF unity in a post-Mugabe world difficult.

GRI take: Mugabe has been resistant, but pressure has built among the public as well as the party for him to step aside and this may prove enough for him to move aside and allow (former) Vice President Mnangagwa to ascend to the position. One important element to watch in the weeks ahead is the strength of the opposition: with the ZANU-PF divided, there is some optimism that the opposition may be able to emerge with greater political clout in a more democratic Zimbabwe political system.

Honduras elections for President may lead to country’s first ever re-election of incumbent president

  • This Sunday, Honduras will vote for president, pitting incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez against Salvador Nasralla. Nasralla, a former TV star, was selected by a broad (and potentially ultimately unstable) coalition of left and right leaning parties in an effort to unseat Hernandez after the Honduran Supreme Court tossed out the constitutional ban on term limits for president.
  • In an effort to show his campaign’s connection to the ousted president Manuel Zelaya, Nasralla supported elevating Zelaya’s wife Xiomara, an accomplished politician in her own right, as his running mate.  The United States has pointed to Hernandez’s Alliance for Prosperity (a plan similar to Plan Colombia to boost development in the region), as a key point of success for the Hernandez administration, and U.S. diplomats may be concerned that a loss to Nasralla could jeopardize this plan.
  • Venezuela may be attempting to interfere in the election, though the government appears to be responsive to concerns and is working with the international community to protect the integrity of the election.

GRI take: Polls show Hernandez ahead, possibly out of a desire for stability in a country racked by conflict, drug violence, and the displacement of citizens.

Nepal holds election for lower house of parliament

  • This Sunday, Nepal will head to the polls to vote for its 275-member House of Representatives, with a split in voting between 165 first-past-the-post districts and 110 party-line votes. The vote will occur in two stages, with one round Sunday and another on December 7.
  • The main political parties in contention-the ruling Nepali Congress and the Unified Marxist-Leninists/Maoist Center alliance-will be competing with dozens of other political parties for dominance of the chamber that will select prime minister, president, and vice president.
  • In addition to the first round at the national parliamentary level, Nepal will also be voting for regional councils, part of a broader power-sharing federalized structure enshrined by the 2015 Nepalese constitution to protect the interests of ethnic minority groups.
  • Ultimately, Nepal’s citizenry are largely calling for stability and development, as the decades’ long conflict with the Communist insurgency and royal intrigues have scared away investments, and last year’s devastating earthquakes further contributed to economic struggles in one of Asia’s least developed economies.

GRI take: Even if a majority can be cobbled together around possibly a dozen or more parties, the history of Nepal’s parliaments is not encouraging: no parliamentary session has lasted its entire term, and most have lasted fewer than 2 years. Nevertheless, there appears to be a degree of optimism in the current environment, perhaps due to a strong desire by Nepal to remain stable to encourage investment. A possible cross-communist party alliance may not be strong, given ongoing tensions that have already spilled out into public.

UK Chancellor to announce budget, and may loosen restrictions on local council authority to borrow to build homes

  • This Wednesday, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will announce the May government’s budget for the upcoming year. Hammond faces opposed forces within the narrow majority held by the May government and allies: those who wish to continue cutting back on spending to get borrowing down to below 2% of GDP by 2020, and those who would like to see austerity end.
  • Underfunding the NHS has led to consistent protest from doctors and hospitals, and the further erosion of support from these groups will make the May government’s tenuous hold of the majority even more tenuous.
  • School spending is likely to fall, as the Hammond budget is expected to lead to cuts up to 2021.
  • Housing is likely to be a huge point of contention: although housing construction rose by over 200,000 homes last year, demand for affordable housing was still at over 1.2 million families, and restrictions on local government borrowing has constricted building across the UK. The chancellor’s budget may alter rules to allow some spending, though it is expected at this point to only include a few places and borrowing authority may be contingent on sign off from the housing ministry. The extension of local council authority to borrow may help to relieve the substantial pressure on housing, but the growth of local council debt could rile fiscal conservatives in the Tory government.

GRI take: Education and NHS spending are likely to be sore spots for the Tories, particularly as Labour has pushed for an expansion of spending for both and is likely to focus on these areas in the 2022 elections and earlier local elections (or earlier if the May government falls).


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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