The customary Happy New Year greetings are still resonating, and the new year is firmly with us.
2018 promises to be a very interesting one as far as world politics and events are concerned. We would use this medium to look at some of the expectations and potential talking points for 2018. This article is the first of a two part look at our expectations and predictions for 2018.
It appears ‘The White House’ will remain a focal point in international politics. Already this year, President Donald Trump is in the fore with the latest expose coming from the recently published book, ‘Fire and Fury’, which chronicles goings on in the Trump White House. The book is already generating a new wave of controversy on the Trump administration, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out.
President Trump clearly loves to court controversy, and his most recent comments on ‘less privileged third world’ countries is already generating another round of criticisms.
Still on the White House, we wait to see who else within the Trump regime would be indicted by the Muller investigation, into possible Russian collusion in last US presidential election.
Finally, on the American political scene, it will be interesting to see which way America votes during the mid term elections coming up in November. Would President Trump’s much ridiculed and divisive style of leadership tilt the voting in favor of the Democrats, or will the GOP maintain control of both houses of congress?
Another interesting political hotbed is the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has pretty much established itself as a nuclear nation, despite the threats from the United States. Now, in what is seen by many as a move to divide the opposition to its nuclear status, North Korea wants to have direct talks with its Southern neighbor for the first time in years. These talks are ostensibly to discuss the possibility of North Korea’s participation in the upcoming winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Very interesting to see if this will eventually lead to direct talks between the rogue regime of Kim Jong-un and the White House.
In Europe, the Brexit issue seems to be finally making progress, and the British Premier, who is reputed to have the job no one wants at this moment, will be able to seal post-Brexit trade deals with other European nations, and finally chart a clear path for the UK, post-Brexit.
This is however on the backdrop of recent comments by Brexit architect, Nigel Farage for a second Brexit referendum.
2018 certainly promises to be interesting in Europe, as far as Brexit is concerned.
In Africa, the change of leadership in Zimbabwe was received with a lot of joy and optimism for the South African nation. It remains to be seen if the power change will attract much needed foreign investments to the country that was once referred to as the bread basket of Africa, and later on, the basket case of Africa under President Mugabe.
The Republic of South Africa is also under the microscope this year, as the ruling ANC elected a seasoned businessman and politician, Cyril Ramaphosa as party leader to replace the much maligned Jacob Zuma. Mr. Ramaphosa defeated Mr. Zuma’s ex-wife, and anointed candidate in a keenly contested leadership election; and will most likely be the country’s next President.
South Africans and indeed the whole of Africa expect this to bring a much needed reversal of economic and political fortunes for the country.
In Nigeria, the ruling political party, APC is facing a lot of scrutiny. The economy has not adequately recovered from the last recession, despite assurances and promises by the government. In addition, the local currency has lost considerable value under this present regime.
The security situation is also not improving either. Despite the euphoria that greeted the “defeat” of Boko Haram; the issue of armed Fulani cattle herdsmen, ravaging farmlands and killing the farmers has remained largely unchecked by the authorities, and is a source of worry and concern for well meaning citizens. It remains to be seen if this will play a major factor in deciding the outcome of the up-coming Presidential elections in 2019.
Successful presidential elections were held in Liberia, which brought about a peaceful transition in a country with a history of political violence and war. The entire continent is hopeful that the popular President elect and ex-footballer, Mr George Weah will take the country to the next level, after a reasonably successful and stable regime of Africa’s first female President, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Egypt has Presidential elections coming up in March, 2018, with the incumbent Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (rtd), widely expected to win.
In the Middle East, Isis has finally been defeated, and Raqqa, their de facto capital, finally liberated. However, Syria itself remains a broken shadow of its former self, after years of civil war, which has failed to dislodge erstwhile leader, Bashir al-Assad. The world waits to see how the Political power tussle plays out in 2018.
Relative peace has been restored now in Iraq. Isis has also been driven out of Mosul, northern Iraq, where they held sway for several years. The new year presents the leaders of Iran with an opportunity for a fresh peaceful start. One not seen since the Saddam Hussein era.
Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran are potential regions of interest in 2018. Saudi Arabia is undergoing huge social and economic reforms. Activists have finally had their way, and Women would be legally allowed to drive in 2018 for the very first time in the country’s history. Also, women were allowed for the first time, to watch football games just a few days ago, unaccompanied by male relatives.
In Yemen, the Saudi led multinational coalition continues to bomb positions held by Houthi rebels in one of the poorest countries in the region. The collateral damage associated with this is alarming, with over 8,000 dead and 49,000 injured since 2015. It is expected that 2018 will usher in fresh efforts at negotiating a peaceful resolution to the war.
This piece in the Middle East will be incomplete without mention of the regional power play going on between Qatar and her regional neighbors, namely Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. This disagreement led to a full diplomatic war, resulting in Gulf Arab states severing diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar. In 2018, it will be interesting to observe how this evolves, especially as Kuwait has signified a willingness to mediate.
We Welcome, 2018...
The world’s political arena has never been more complex, going into a New Year. We presently have a situation where virtually every continent has a number of countries facing contending issues, capable of impacting the whole world.
This write up into some of these issues will be revisited at the end of the first quarter of the year. In the interim, it will be appreciated if comments (in the box below) and opinions can be shared by our readers.
- Terence McArthur
Editor, The Street Hawker