MENA Brief newsletter 29 March - 4 April 2019

The latest MENA Brief analyses the Turkey election results, Bouteflika's resignation, and the protests in Tunisia Middle East
  • Saudi Arabia - Debris from Houthi drone kills one, injures four, in residential area
  • Turkey - Heightened protest risk as both Istanbul mayoral candidates claim victory
  • Turkey - Switchover to Istanbul Airport set to bring significant travel disruption
  • Algeria - Civil unrest forces president to resign, but protests continue
  • Morocco - Teachers extend strike action until 14 April
  • Tunisia - Fuel-price increase set to spark protests across country

Middle East

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Saudi Arabia - Debris from Houthi drone kills one, injures four, in residential area Saudi Arabia- Security risk: Elevated 

One person was killed and four were injured when debris from Houthi rebel drones shot down by Saudi Arabian air defence systems landed in residential areas on 2 April. Two drones were intercepted over the city of Khamis Mushait, in Asir province, in the south-west of the country. According to the Houthis, the drones, which were launched from neighbouring Yemen, were targeting a major airbase in the city. 

Why it matters: A Saudi-led coalition is fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen's civil war, and Saudi cities with oil facilities and airbases are targets for Houthi drones and missiles. The areas most at risk are in the southern provinces of Asir, Jizan and Najran, though Houthi missiles have reached as far as the capital, Riyadh. Saudi missile defence system are likely to intercept most Houthi missiles and drones, however shrapnel and other debris pose a risk to personnel in the vicinity. A2 Global advises operational managers to ensure staff are drilled on how to respond to drone and missile attacks and have medical evacuation plans in place. 

Turkey -  Heightened protest risk as both Istanbul mayoral candidates claim victory Turkey-Travel risk: Extreme 

Protests and victory rallies are set to occur in Turkey's commercial centre Istanbul, after both mayoral candidates claimed victory in the 31 March local elections. The candidate from the ruling AKP party, Binali Y?ld?r?m, dismissed the claim by opposition CHP candidate Ekrem ?mamo?lu. The initial results indicated that ?mamo?lu received 46.8 percent of the vote while Y?ld?r?m polled 48.5 percent. The AKP party has demanded a recount in eight districts, due to suspicions of voting irregularities. While the AKP has won 51 percent of the vote nationwide, it suffered a major setback in losing the capital Ankara and the country's third-largest city Izmir to the opposition. 

Why it matters:

The loss of Istanbul would be a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, having already lost Ankara. A heightened security presence is expected across Istanbul, with protests and rallies likely at locations such as Taksim square in the city centre. Small clashes have already occurred between AKP and CHP supporters in the city. Business travellers should allow additional journey time, as disruptions are expected.. They should also avoid any protests as a precaution.

Turkey - Switchover to Istanbul Airport set to bring significant travel disruption Turkey- Travel risk: Extreme 
All flights from Istanbul Atatrk Airport (IST) will be transferred to Istanbul Airport (ISL) in a process that begins on 5 April, and is set to take until 7 April. Both airports will halt operations for a period of 12 hours, from 0200 until 1400 local time, tomorrow. IST, which is located 24km from Istanbul city centre, had been the country's busiest and biggest airport, handling over 68 million passengers last year. ISL, which is 35km from the city centre, is set to have an annual capacity of 150 million passengers, making it one of the busiest airports in the world. The International Air Transport Association code for Istanbul Atatrk Airport  IST  will be transferred to Istanbul Airport after 7 April. 

Why it matters:

The switchover is set to cause major delays. Oman Air has already cancelled several flights from Muscat to Istanbul, while the US consulate has warned its nationals of flight delays and cancellations. A2 Global advises travellers to re-confirm their flight status, in case of cancellations and delays. A2 Global also advises travellers to allow for additional time when travelling from Istanbul Airport, as it is further from Istanbul city centre than Istanbul Atatrk Airport.

North Africa
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Algeria - Civil unrest forces president to resign, but protests continue - Algeria - Security risk: High 

On 2 April Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned as president, after nationwide mass protests against him and his government since 17 February. Images of the ailing president handing over his letter of resignation to the speaker of the upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, were broadcast live to confirm Bouteflika was standing down. Crowds took to the streets of the capital Algiers to celebrate the departure of Bouteflika, who had been in power since 1999. In another development, the government on 31 March banned all private aircraft from operating in its airspace until the end of April. No explanation was given for this decision. 

Why it matters:

Under Algeria's constitution, Bensalah now becomes interim president for 90 days, while presidential elections are held. Bensalah is a close ally of Bouteflika and will not appease protesters who deem him a continuation of the status quo. Anti-government demonstrators have adopted the slogan remove them all, signalling a rejection of the whole political structure, rather than just opposition to Bouteflika. The ban on private aircraft from Algerian airspace is probably an attempt by the government to prevent prominent figures leaving the country. Protests are set to continue across Algeria. Protesters are likely to gather at the Martyrs Memorial, next to Khelifa Oulmane Boulevard, in the capital Algiers. Business travellers should avoid protests as a precaution and allow for additional time for journeys, due to travel disruption the protests are likely to cause in the capital. 

Morocco - Teachers extend strike action until 14 April Morocco - Travel risk: Elevated 

The FNE and the OTD unions have announced the extension of national strikes by teachers until 14 April. These have been taking place since 4 March over demands for higher salaries and greater oversight of ministry of education officials. 

Why it matters: 

During the dispute teachers have protested in the capital Rabat, opposite the parliament building, on Avenue Mohammed V. This is a likely to remain the key location for further protests. Previous protests have seen a heavy-handed response by security forces. On 24 March, anti-riot police deployed batons and water cannon against protesters. Business traveller should avoid demonstrations as a precaution due to potential confrontations between protestors and security forces. As protests will likely disrupt traffic in the near vicinity, A2 Global advises business travellers to use alternative routes and allow for additional journey time. 

Tunisia - Fuel-price increase set to spark protests across country Tunisia - Travel risk:Elevated 

The ministry of industry on 30 March officially announced that it would increase fuel prices by 4 per cent in order to tackle the budget deficit. In response, minibus taxi drivers held nationwide strikes on 4 April, after the UTL union called for action. 

Why it matters: 

The fuel price hike was also condemned by farming and fishing union UTAP, which stated that the price increase will affect production costs in various sectors. A small number of people on 1 April blocked several roads in the town Ouerdanin, 164km south of the capital Tunis, while taxi drivers protested in the city Siliana, 135km south of the capital. On 2 April, in the coastal city of Sousse, 147km south of Tunis, minibus taxi drivers closed the road at Souk Al Ahad, in the centre of the city. This caused severe travel disruption. Protests are likely to occur in the capital in the 48-hour outlook. Business travellers should avoid all protests as a precaution. Logistics and facilities managers should factor the price increase into operational and strategic plans.