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Forecast Podcast: Iran presidential election, NYC mayoral primary, first Hong Kong national security law trial, Gibraltar abortion referendum, Western US drought

Iranians vote in a 2013 election.

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Iran will hold presidential elections to elect a successor to outgoing President Hassan Rouhani who has served in the position since 2013. Democrats and Republicans will choose their candidates in the New York City mayoral race to lead the biggest city in the United States. The first person charged under Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law will stand trial on terrorism and secession charges. Gibraltar, one of the countries in Europe with the strictest abortion laws, will hold a referendum on whether abortion should be partially legalized. And an interview with Joe Veyera on the extreme drought gripping the Western U.S. 

These stories and more are available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Jeff Landset, Jess Fino and Joe Veyera.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.



Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is June 17th.

In this week’s forecast we’ll look at the Iranian presidential election, New York City’s mayoral primary, the first trial under Hong Kong’s controversial national security law, an abortion referendum in Gibraltar and extreme drought and wildfire conditions in the western United States.

You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

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Iranian presidential election

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: On Friday, Iran will hold presidential elections to pick a successor to outgoing President Hassan Rouhani who’s served in the position since 2013.

Iranians will be choosing between seven candidates that were approved by the country’s powerful Guardian Council — that’s the constitutional body tasked with allowing specific candidates to run and overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The council picked the seven candidates from a field of 585 that applied.

Now, none of the seven approved candidates would be considered prominent “reformists.” In fact, the favorite to win is conservative judiciary chair Ebrahim Raisi. He was the second place finisher to Rouhani in 2017.

Still, the election comes as talks continue in Vienna between Iran and other participants in the 2015 nuclear deal. The sides are attempting to negotiate a return to compliance after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally leave the deal in 2018.

And while the talks are unlikely to produce an agreement by Friday’s election, they are said to be making progress. Also, despite coming from the conservative camp, Raisi has signaled his intention to continue the talks.  

However, turnout in the election, particularly among Iran’s disillusioned youth, is worth watching with the expected election of Raisi. He’s a close ally of the Supreme Leader and that has sparked fears of intensified repression of domestic dissent.

New York City mayoral primary

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: On Tuesday, voters in New York City will choose their candidates in the mayoral race to lead the biggest city in the United States.

And with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term expiring, more than a dozen Democrats have thrown their hat in the ring. 

Recent polls show Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia as the front-runners with one-time presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former de Blasio aide Maya Wiley trailing behind them.

Also in the race: New York Comptroller Scott Stringer. He’s refused to withdraw from the race, despite accusations of sexual misconduct by two women.  

Now, this will be the first time the city uses ranked-choice voting, or what’s sometimes called instant-runoff voting. It lets voters choose multiple candidates, ranking them by order of preference. If no candidate has a majority of votes, the person with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. This is done until a winner is determined. 

The process is used to ensure the winner has broad support, however, it has led to fewer polls making a surprise more likely. 

Also, no major Republican candidate is running, meaning this race will likely determine who will win the general election in November. 

That person immediately becomes a name to remember for national politics, as the last three mayors of New York have all gone on to run for president.

First Hong Kong National Security Law trial

Information compiled by Alex  Moore

JIMMY: On Wednesday, the first person charged under Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law will stand trial on charges of terrorism and secession.

24-year-old Tong Ying-kit is accused of driving a motorcycle into three police officers during a protest on July 1st of last year. He’s also accused of inciting others by chanting a popular protest slogan and faces charges over traffic violations. 

A central remaining question surrounding the trial is whether or not jurors will be present or if Tong’s fate will rest in the hands of the three judges hand picked by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.  

Now, an appellate court is set to rule on that aspect Tuesday, but the decision actually cuts at the core of a central tenet of Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, which holds that High Court criminal cases must be heard before a judge and jury.

If the appellate court upholds the decision that a jury trial is not a constitutional right, it would open the door for subsequent National Security Law cases to also proceed with only Lam’s hand picked judges presiding. 

As for the trial itself, the maximum penalty the suspect faces is life. If sought, it may provide a glimpse into just how far Hong Kong authorities are willing to go when applying the law.

Gibraltar abortion referendum

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: On Thursday, Gibraltar, one of the countries in Europe with the strictest abortion laws, will hold a referendum on whether abortion should be partially legalized.

Abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar under threat of life imprisonment. 

If passed, the law would allow abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy if the woman’s mental or physical health is deemed at risk or if there is substancial risk of a fatal fetal abnormality. 

The referendum was due to take place last year but was delayed by 15 months due to the pandemic.

Now, there are only six European countries currently with a ban on abortion in place, with Andorra, Malta and San Marino not allowing abortion under any circumstances. 

And it was just last year that a framework for lawful abortion services came into effect in Northern Ireland — and that was after years of campaigning by activists.

Meanwhile other countries are going the opposite direction. Earlier this year Poland began enforcing a near-total ban on abortion, sparking nationwide protests. 

Still, if Gibraltar votes next week to partially legalize abortions it could lead other nations to follow suit.

Extreme drought and wildfire conditions in western U.S.

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the drought impacting the western United States and the fire danger that comes with it. For more on that I spoke with Factal editor Joe Veyera.

JIMMY: Hey, Joe, thanks for taking a moment to educate us on what’s happening with the drought. 

JOE: Thanks for having me. 

JIMMY: So what’s the latest? How bad is it?

JOE: Well, you’re talking to someone who just bought an air purifier for their apartment in preparation for what this fire season could bring. So nearly 40 percent of the US was under moderate to exceptional drought conditions last week, according to the US Drought Monitor, and that included nearly all of California, Oregon, Utah and Nevada. So it’s not good. 

JIMMY: Well, that sounds pretty alarming. How have authorities responded?

JOE: So first off, you see local officials starting to tell residents to conserve water. And, what was really interesting, was the call from Utah Gov. Spencer Cox asking residents to join him in a weekend of prayer earlier this month for drought relief. And that’s a pretty exceptional step for any official to take.

JIMMY: Yes, seems like a pretty serious situation if we’re literally praying for rain. How does this fire season compare to last year’s?

JOE: Well, to go back to last year to start, last year broke records with just over 10 million acres across the United States burned by wildfires and officials are already bracing for another difficult season. If you look at how this year matches up to last year through June 11, the National Interagency Fire Center put the total number of acres burned at approximately 830,000. And that’s up more than 25 percent from the same time a year ago. So we’re not off to a great start.

JIMMY: And does that include the big fires that are burning near Globe, Arizona.

JOE: Yes, that includes the Telegraph Fire, which as of Tuesday had grown to more than 100,000 acres. And I believe it was already seventh on the list of largest wildfires in state history. And from what we’re seeing so far, it looks like that’s going to continue to climb up that list.

JIMMY: Well, besides praying for rain and watching for record-setting fires, what else should folks be on the lookout for with this drought situation?

JOE: Well, one thing that I found particularly interesting was the record low level — and continuing to drop level — of Lake Mead, which is the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam. And that kind of shows what some of these bigger drought impacts are going to be. So millions of people already depend on that lake for its water supply. But beyond that, there’s also electrical generation issues that come with a low water level. So despite better preparation in years past, regulators in California are warning that a heat wave similar to one from last year could strain the electrical grid.

JIMMY: Well, Joe, you haven’t brought us good news, but it’s definitely important news. Thanks for catching us up to speed there.

JOE: Well I wish I had better news to bring but hopefully the summer provides some relief.

JIMMY: Something to hope for. Take care, Joe. 

JOE: Thanks for having me.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Jeff Landset and Jess Fino. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello at factal dot com.

Top image: Iranians vote in 2013. Source: Wikimedia