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Thousands of corporate executives, government officials, diplomats, analysts and journalists are due to descend on St Petersburg as the 20th international economic forum kicks off in the city on Thursday.

In the past two years, this Russian version of Davos offered a sense of just how badly the Russian economy was hurting from the oil price drop and western sanctions. This year, Russian president Vladimir Putin is scoring a diplomatic victory as EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi have agreed to attend.

Although the country is expected to gradually emerge from recession, there is unlikely to be a sharp change in mood: Most top-level western executives who used to fill the front rows to hear Russian president Vladimir Putin speak every year before the Ukraine crisis continue to stay away, reluctant to anger western regulators.

More junior managers from their companies continue to attend in large numbers to ensure their business in Russia holds up, and they are joined by growing numbers of Asian, Middle Eastern and other guests.

Even with the expectation that Russia’s economy will stop shrinking towards the end of this year, there are no hopes for a strong rebound. Instead, forum participants are likely to discuss whether Moscow will finally tackle difficult structural reforms which have been delayed for many years.

One of the most closely watched figures will therefore be Alexei Kudrin, the former finance minister and reform advocate who has regained some political weight after Mr Putin appointed him to head a key think-tank and an economic advisory council.

By-election in London marginal

Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan will be hoping to hold the seat vacated by London mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday as Tooting residents vote in a by-election.

Mr Khan’s slender majority of 2,800 votes makes the seat marginal, in what is a rapidly gentrifying area.

Up against Ms Allin-Khan, a Pakistani-Polish doctor, is the Conservatives’ Dan Watkins, a local businessman who also contested the election last year.

A loss for Labour would be a serious upset and a blow to leader Jeremy Corbyn, while the margin of victory should provide a clue as to whether the Conservatives are facing a backlash to the controversial tactics used in the mayoral campaign, in which they tried to link Mr Khan to Islamist extremism.

Next peers’ speaker

The result of an election for the next Speaker of the House of Lords is announced on Monday. The Lord Speaker is elected by members of the Lords for five years.

The new Lord Speaker will be the third in the House of Lords’ history. The present Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, announced in February that she would not seek re-election.

She said then: “As I step down I will continue to work towards the development of a smaller, more relevant and more professional second chamber.”

As well as overseeing proceedings in the chamber, the Lord Speaker acts as an ambassador for the Lords in the UK and abroad, explaining the work of the House and its contribution to Parliament.

Candidates are former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Fowler, Conservative peer Lord Cormack and Lib Dem ex-government spokeswoman Baroness Garden of Frognal.

The role of Lord Speaker was created in 2006 and Lady D’Souza is the second holder, having been elected by her colleagues to succeed Baroness Hayman in 2011. The job has a salary of £101,000 alongside an “office holders’ allowance” of up to £36,000

The election winner takes office on September 1.

Haiti’s interim president stays on

Another deadline passes for Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, to hold much delayed run-off presidential elections, which was due to be held between before June 26. The Caribbean country has not had a president since Michel Martelly stepped down on February 7.

Interim president, Jocelerme Privert, has said he will stay in office until next year to transfer power to an elected president unless parliament rules otherwise.

An electoral council last Monday scrapped results of a disputed presidential vote. The impoverished Caribbean nation’s second-round run-off was postponed several times after losing candidates alleged fraud.

Under a multi-party agreement, Mr Privert was supposed to have overseen elections and handed power to an elected successor within 120 days, by June 14. Electoral deadlines were missed after argument over appointments and the establishment of a commission to investigate the first round.

In its non-binding final report, the commission recommended an entirely new election, citing widespread fraud and “zombie” voting.

On February 7 the nation was to have marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the 29-year Duvalier family’s dictatorship with the inauguration of a newly elected president at the end of a three-part election cycle that began last summer, which the US spent $30m supporting.

Haiti is facing its worst food insecurity in 15 years, partly from a prolonged drought and struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled infrastructure.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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