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Forecast: Truckers reach Ottawa in vaccine protest, Burkina Faso’s military seizes power, and Winter Olympics begin in Beijing

Trucks and cars wait at the border crossing between Canada and Michigan on the Blue Water Bridge. (Photo: yuan2003 / Flickr)

Top image: Trucks and cars wait at the border crossing between Canada and Michigan on the Blue Water Bridge. (Photo: yuan2003 / Flickr)

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can subscribe for free.

A Look Ahead

Jan. 29  

Truckers reach Ottawa in vaccine mandate protest  
A convoy of truckers from the western Canadian province of British Columbia is expected to arrive in Ottawa on Sunday as part of a protest over coronavirus restrictions.

What’s happened so far 
The truckers, who left in their “freedom convoy” from Vancouver, are protesting a vaccine mandate announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in November that requires all workers crossing into Canada to be fully vaccinated. The policy took effect last Saturday, despite strong opposition. The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which opposes the protests, said the “vast majority” of the 160,000 truckers who regularly cross the border are vaccinated, though the vaccination rate among U.S. truckers is believed to be much lower.
The impact 
A convoy of trucks in downtown Ottawa is likely to paralyze traffic in the surrounding area, but Trudeau remains defiant that the measure will remain in place, despite the risk to already strained supply chains. Under the current mandate, truckers who do not get vaccinated risk a 14-day quarantine after they cross into Canada from the United States.

Jan. 30  

Portuguese general elections  
Voters in Portugal will choose the country’s new government Sunday following snap elections called by the president after parliament failed to approve this year’s budget.

What’s happened so far 
Current Prime Minister Antonio Costa, leader of the center-left Socialist party (PS), is up for re-election, running against, Rui Rio, who leads the center-right Democratic Socialist Party (PDS). The government announced those who have tested positive for coronavirus or who are self-isolating will be able to leave their homes and vote during a set time slot.
The Impact 
Several polls suggest neither PS or PDS will win with a majority, meaning a new coalition might be on the cards. In 2015, PS formed a government with the Communist Party, the Left Bloc and the Greens, but relationships with these parties severed after they rejected the budget. Meanwhile, a PSD minority win could lead the party to team up with right-wing parties. Polls suggest the far-right party Chega, criticized for comments against migrants and minorities, could reach as much as 6 percent of votes and become the third biggest party in Portugal.

Jan. 31  

Indian parliament budget session  
The 2022 budget session of the Parliament of India is set to begin Monday, as a third wave of coronavirus threatens the nation’s economy.

What’s happened so far
The first part of the parliament’s budgetary session will run through Feb. 11, with the second part set to be held March 14, after a month-long recess. The Economic Survey — a report on the state of the economy over the past year, the key challenges anticipated for the year ahead and their possible solutions — will be presented Monday, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget presentation scheduled for the following day
The Impact 
The budget session comes as the country battles with the third wave of coronavirus and the impact of the omicron variant will be among the biggest factors discussed. With the rise of cases within the parliament, proof of vaccination as well as a negative test is required for every attendee.

Feb. 1 

Navalny hearing on extremism charges  
Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny will attend a hearing on Tuesday after the country officially labeled him as a terrorist.

What’s happened so far 
The Petushinsky District Court of Russia’s Vladimir Region will consider the appeal filed by Navalny in November to remove him and his allies from the “terrorists and extremists” list. The hearing was originally scheduled to take place in December, but it has been postponed by the court twice.
The Impact 
Russia’s financial comptroller included Navalny, two of his aides and a number of his supporters on a list of individuals involved in extremist activities or terrorism. Under the designation, Navalny’s financial transactions are subject to a number of limitations, including barring him from receiving a salary or accessing funds. According to Russian law, banks are banned from providing services to people who appear on the list.


Hungarian PM Viktor Orban visits Russia 
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is expected to hold bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.

What’s happened so far 
Discussions are expected to center around the much-delayed largely Russia-led project to expand Hungary’s nuclear power plant in Paks. The Hungarian foreign minister said he hoped the project would enter an “infancy phase” by early 2022, with the help of Russian state energy company Rosatom and a hefty $12 billion loan from a Russian state bank.
The Impact 
Such heavy reliance on Russia has been divisive both within Hungary and abroad. While the government, which has always pushed for closer ties with Russia, welcomed the project, critics argue it would mean greater financial and political dependence on Russia for relatively little gain.
A protester raises a three-finger salute in a demonstration against the military junta in Myanmar on Feb. 14, 2021. (Photo: Htin Linn Aye.)

Feb. 1  

One-year anniversary of Myanmar coup 
People across Myanmar are encouraged to stay home and close businesses Tuesday as activists and anti-junta groups organize a “silent strike” to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the military coup.

What’s happened so far 
In the year since Myanmar’s powerful armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, toppled the civilian-led government, the country has faced turmoil across multiple fronts. Security forces killed nearly 1,500 people arrested more than 11,000, according to a local monitoring group. Meanwhile, fighting between the Tatmadaw and resistance groups continued, pushing thousands of civilians to seek refuge in Myanmar’s forests or in neighboring India or Thailand.
The Impact 
The ongoing fighting and resistance movements have stalled the country’s operations. Businesses, including those in the country’s lucrative natural gas industry, are withdrawing from Myanmar due to pressure to cut financial ties with the military junta. On the political front, the Tatmadaw’s chief promised to hold elections by 2023, though plans have so far been met with skepticism.

Feb. 2  

Washington Football Team unveils name  
The NFL team formerly known as the Washington Redskins will announce its permanent name on Wednesday.

What’s happened so far 
After years of steadfastly saying the team’s name would never change, ownership announced during the George Floyd protests in 2020 they would drop the racist moniker. Pressure from a group of investors worth more than $600 billion forced owner Dan Snyder and the league to make the change.
The Impact 
Once the team’s name change becomes official, it will be a victory for the racial justice movement that gained steam after Floyd’s death. It will also be a win for Native American groups that have fought to make sure their heritage isn’t used in a derogatory manner.

Feb. 3  

Turkey’s central bank convenes for special session 
The Turkish Central Bank will hold an “extraordinary general meeting” Thursday, on issues including the advance payment of 2021 profits to shareholders and a distribution of reserve funds.

What’s happened so far 
The Turkish lira plunged to record lows in 2021, with annual inflation hitting a 19-year record high of 36.1 percent in December, according to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute. An extraordinary meeting was held Jan. 20, where the interest rate was kept unchanged, holding its one-week repurchase agreement rate at 14 percent.
The Impact 
Experts predict Turkey’s policy on its repurchase agreement to remain unchanged. But as Ankara continues to ramp up fiscal support for the economy, economists say Turkey could see a profit in 2021 which would then be transferred in April to its shareholders, a majority of which are owned by Turkey’s Treasury.

Feb. 4  

2022 Winter Olympics begin in Beijing 
The Winter Olympics opening ceremony will be staged in Beijing on Friday, kicking off the second Olympic Games since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

What’s happened so far 
With Tokyo’s Summer Olympics ending just six months ago, it will be an unusually short turnaround  for the Winter Olympics. Preparations in Beijing have been in full swing, with a new set of coronavirus restrictions, including a strict closed-loop bubble for participants and limiting spectators to select group from mainland China. Several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, declared “diplomatic boycotts” of the games, citing human rights abuses. 
The Impact 
The Beijing Olympics will begin part-way through the Lunar New Year holidays, which begin Feb. 1. Travel for the holiday has already begun and usually lasts approximately 40 days and involves hundreds of millions people. Some travel restrictions are in place to curb coronavirus spread. This comes as Beijing opens its borders to international visitors for the Olympics in a way it has not done since the start of the pandemic.

What Else Matters

The United States sent defensive aid to Ukraine on Tuesday, which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says will “bolster Ukraine’s defenses in the face of Russian aggression.” (Photo: Ukraine Ministry of Defense)

Ukraine-Russia tensions 

Approximately 127,000 Russian soldiers now surround Ukraine on three sides, with forces amassed to Ukraine’s north, south and east as the high-stakes standoff between Moscow, Kyiv and NATO drags on. Meanwhile, a significant movement of Russian forces into Belarus is ongoing ahead of large-scale joint exercises due to begin Feb. 10 and last 10 days. While Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate intentions remain unclear, notwithstanding leverage for sweeping security demands presented to the United States and NATO, it is clear that Russia is nearing completion of the architecture necessary to launch and sustain a full invasion. 

Watch for: With U.S. and Russian negotiators making little progress in talks over Moscow’s broad demands, President Biden offered a potential opening for progress, admitting the unspoken truth that Ukraine’s short-term prospects for joining NATO are slim. The United States halso floated fully or partially reviving now-defunct agreements limiting certain missile deployments and exercises in Europe. Marking a potentially ominous pathway, however, Russia’s State Duma will hash out details of a draft proposal from nationalist politicians to recognize the breakaway republics in Ukraine’s east. Potential attacks in Ukraine’s Donbass, as well as incidents such as the 2018 Kerch Strait flare up with increased naval activity in the Black Sea, are worth monitoring. 

Burkina Faso coup 

Burkina Faso, a West African nation of 21 million people, became the fifth country on the continent to see its military seize power over the past two years. Soldiers took to state TV on Monday to announce the coup following the arrest of President Roch Kaboré, citing his inability to fight militant attacks that have killed hundreds of people and displaced an estimated 1.5 million others.

Watch for: Coup leader Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba is already forming a new government, while France is telling its nationals the situation is “normalizing,” and they can resume regular activities. The military’s seizure of power is opening the door for Russia to expand its presence in the region at the expense of Western powers who’ve been fighting Islamic State-affiliated militants for years without success. Protesters in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou are voicing their support for the Russians to take the place of the French to help restore security in their country.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…