Welcome to this edition of the Weekly Political Compass from Teneo’s political risk advisory team!
This week, we are taking a closer look at Serbia-Kosovo talks. Meanwhile, the leaders of Japan and South Korea will meet, Turkey’s election campaign is getting increasingly tense, and a fake news bill is creating debate in Brazil. Our graph of the week zooms in on new voting patterns in rich democracies.
Today, 2 May, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti are scheduled to hold a meeting in Brussels. Our Central and Eastern Europe Expert, Andrius Tursa, answers three key questions.
What is the context for the meeting?
The encounter is mediated by the EU’s external affairs chief Josep Borrell and the bloc’s Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak. This meeting will be part of a series of regular consultations between the two sides to implement the agreement on the path to normalization tacitly approved at the end of February.
What are the key items on the agenda?
On Tuesday, the two sides are expected to endorse the Declaration on Missing Persons and discuss the statute of the association/community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo.
What will determine success or failure?
It is important to watch whether any progress is made on the latter issue, the majority Serb municipalities, which is one of the most important yet contentious ones.
What to Watch
The Philippines foreign ministry accused China's coast guard of "dangerous maneuvers" and "aggressive tactics" in the South China Sea. This follows an incident between the two coast guards near the Philippines-held Second Thomas Shoal. The incident occurred while Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was visiting Manila, where he met President Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos will meet US President Joe Biden at the White House this week, as the two countries expand defense cooperation with joint military exercises and expanded US access to Philippine bases.
President Yoon Suk-Yeol will host Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul on 7-8 May, the first such visit by a Japanese premier since 2018. The move comes amid improving ties between the two countries, with Yoon visiting Tokyo last month after the two sides agreed a deal on compensation for wartime forced laborers. Kishida and Yoon are also set for a trilateral summit with US president Joe Biden, likely on 21 May, on the side-lines of the Hiroshima G7 summit.
With 12 days left until ballot day, the election campaign is getting increasingly tense, as various senior figures from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have made controversial statements. Last week, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu called the upcoming vote a coup attempt by the West. President Tayyip Erdogan Erdogan followed up at a campaign rally by declaring that his voters will not give up power to those to who get their support from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A senior advisor to Erdogan commented on TV that a change of government would be a “coup against our [Turkey’s] independence.” Concerns are mounting within the opposition that if they cannot win the first round of the presidential vote with a wide enough margin, Erdogan may not accept the results, or his affiliates in the bureaucracy might try to illegally manipulate them.
Asanticipated, voters in the 30 April referendum approved by an overwhelming majority a series of constitutional changes, including those allowing President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to seek two more seven-year terms in office. The amendments were supported by 90.2% of voters, while turnout reached more than 84%, according to the central election commission. Although the vote went smoothly, international election observers noted that the referendum lacked pluralism and competition. Mirziyoyev is expected to continue with his ambitious economic liberalization agenda, but the lack of viable political opposition and weak democratic institutions heightens uncertainty about eventual political succession and the sustainability of reforms in the long term.
The main item on the political agenda this week is the possible vote on a Fake News bill in the House. The vote is scheduled for today, 2 May, but House Speaker Arthur Lira has indicated it may be delayed due to lack of consensus for approval. The bill was revived after years of opposition from the Bolsonaro administration, following violent school attacks and the ransacking and storming of the nation’s capital. The bill contemplates remuneration of journalistic and audiovisual content shared in the platforms and has the general support of the media and communications constituency. If approved, in the House and then back in the Senate, the platforms may be held civilly liable for the circulation of content that falls within several crimes already typified in Brazilian law, including crimes against the democratic rule of law or against children and adolescents. The bill is a top priority of the Lula administration, and the result of the voting may set the tone for important items to be voted on soon - such as the new fiscal framework and the tax reform.
On 7 May, there will be an obligatory public vote to elect a 50-member Constitutional Council – the principal body that will draw up a new constitution. Public interest and expectations in the constitutional process have dwindled, partly following the failure of the previous effort and partly because the public’s priorities have moved on since the original 2019 agreement for a new constitution. While accurate polls are lacking, it is likely that no single bloc or party will win enough seats on their own to steer the process without compromise. Parties that were skeptical about the failed constitutional draft may well end up with an all-important 3/5 majority in the Council. Other technocratic guardrails and the role of a 24-member Expert Commission, which has already begun the drafting process, should mean that a less partisan, more measured constitution will eventually emerge. The new Council will start work on 7 June and will have five months to finalize a new text. The eventual draft will go to another public referendum in December.
Graph of the Week
The political landscape of most rich democracies has been transformed substantially in recent decades. This can be understood by exploring the changing relationship between income, education and voting patterns. In industrial societies, low-educated/low-income voters were more likely to vote for left-wing parties and high-educated/high-income voters tended to vote for right-wing parties. However, the political realignment of knowledge societies means that these two groups are now politically cross-pressured because income and education yield opposing predictions along the two axes – economic and sociocultural – of political competition. In this context, the political allegiances of the “winners” (high-educated/high-income voters) and the “losers” (low-educated/low-income voters) of these economic transformations have become more uncertain. These trends are likely to only intensify against the backdrop of major progress in artificial intelligence and other AI-related technological advances.