The Netherlands: Wilders card.
Also: India, the US, Pakistan, oil prices, Israel and Palestine.
THE NETHERLANDS. Wilders card.
Another far-right victory rocks Europe.
Populist Geert Wilders appeared set to become the Netherlands' next prime minister on Wednesday night, with his Party for Freedom expected to double its seats. Wilders has proposed an EU referendum and a halt to taking in new refugees.
INTELLIGENCE. Even if his anti-EU, anti-Islam party wins 37 of 150 seats as expected, Wilders will still need to form government with centre-right parties, most likely the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Pieter Omtzigt's New Social Contract, which are predicted to take 24 and 20 seats respectively. VVD, the party of outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte, suggested early Thursday that Wilders would struggle to assemble a governing coalition.
FOR BUSINESS. Regardless of how Wilders forms government, his victory is a wake-up to moderates across Europe who had been lulled into a false sense of security when hard-right coalitions failed to win majorities in Poland and Spain. It’s almost inevitable Wilders will be more measured in power than in opposition, but he nonetheless signals a mainstreaming of once fringe positions, which will have consequences in next year’s European Parliament elections.
Written by former diplomats and industry specialists, Geopolitical Dispatch gives you the global intelligence for business and investing you won’t find anywhere else.
INDIA. UNITED STATES. Separatist ways.
Awkward accusations of an attempted assassination.
The White House said Wednesday the US had thwarted a plot to kill US citizen and Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, and that it had raised the matter with Delhi. India on Monday filed an anti-terror case against Pannun.
INTELLIGENCE. The alleged plot, first reported by the Financial Times, comes two months after Justin Trudeau accused Delhi of the murder of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver. Unlike Canada, India will be unable to meaningfully punish the US for making the accusation (particularly as it was first leaked in the press), but it throws a spanner into deepening US-India ties. Earlier this month, US and Indian officials held their fifth strategic dialogue.
FOR BUSINESS. Geopolitics has brought the US and India closer, but differences on trade and human rights will, as now, form cleavages that China and Russia will seek to exploit. The news will bring vindication to Ottawa, but any lessening of Indian pressure, as had been occurring in recent weeks, may ironically now come to a stop. Delhi needs to save political face ahead of elections this weekend in Rajasthan, where Sikhs are a small but influential minority.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
PAKISTAN. Khan of worms.
The judicial branch complicates a political purge.
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted a bail plea from former prime minister Imran Khan on charges over the sale of state gifts. On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court declared a separate trial over state secrets to be void.
INTELLIGENCE. Khan has been charged with dozens of crimes so the two rulings, while embarrassing for the all-powerful military and its proxies in parliament, won’t necessarily lead to his release. Khan was removed from power last year and arrested in March. He remains Pakistan’s most popular politician, but the establishment appears set on facilitating the political return of Nawaz Sharif, now back from exile after years of his own close shaves with the law.
FOR BUSINESS. After several delays, ostensibly due to a census, Pakistan will head to the polls in February. Khan’s incarceration means Nawaz is almost certain to win, but the three-time former leader and brother of Shehbaz Sharif, who deposed Khan, won’t find governing Pakistan as easy as winning an election. Not only have the courts failed to toe the military’s line, but the economy remains in shambles, despite recent debt deals with China and the IMF.
OIL PRICES. Crude shock.
Higher-than-expected reserves are just as well.
West Texas Intermediate crude contracts fell 5% on Wednesday after the OPEC oil cartel delayed a meeting on production cuts and the US Energy Information Administration announce a surprise weekly uptick in oil inventories.
INTELLIGENCE. Speculation of disagreement between Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members over output levels has spooked markets. News of rising stockpiles in the US and China have also bolstered the bear case for lower prices into the northern winter. Yet amid political uncertainty in the Middle East, Venezuela and Russia, the risks of sudden shocks remain on the supply side. A busy Thanksgiving travel season could also surprise on the demand side.
FOR BUSINESS. Energy prices remain choppy and hard to predict. Differences in movement across grade, source and contract also pose difficulties for anyone trying to trace a clear narrative. Confusion over Chinese policy creates another dilemma for traders, as do conflicting signals on Iran. While a pause in Gaza may lower tensions in the Gulf, recent complaints from the UN’s nuclear watchdog on Tehran’s safeguards pose the risk of yet further sanctions.
Emailed each weekday at 5am Eastern (9am GMT), Daily Assessment gives you the strategic framing and situational awareness to stay ahead in a changing world.
ISRAEL. PALESTINE. Delayed gratification.
A hold up on hostages and in Washington.
Israel's national security adviser on Wednesday said a planned hostage release in Gaza will now not happen before Friday. Media reports on Wednesday raised hopes for a pre-Christmas funding package for Israel from Congress.
INTELLIGENCE. After Joe Biden agreed to a package from Congress that excluded funds for Israel and Ukraine, speculation has risen the US might abandon its partners amid an increasingly acrimonious debate over debt and foreign entanglements. Yet despite declining support by some on the left, Israel is the one ally almost every legislator on the right is willing to back. And at risk of his own popularity in the Democrat base, Biden also supports further aid.
FOR BUSINESS. Funding may be delayed but will come. The bigger question is how much support is necessary should Israel – despite delays on hostages – be able to finish the current phase of its war in Gaza. The other question is how quickly Israel can reintegrate into regional energy and trade flows, and for what price. An accord with Saudi Arabia looks out of scope for some time – or at least until Netanyahu leaves office – but piecemeal deals are still possible.