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Forecast Podcast: Trucker convoy heads to US capital despite easing of coronavirus-related restrictions

Two D.C. police and two D.C. National Guard stand in a road. There are cars parked on the side of the road. They look to be preparing for traffic control. The Guard members are wearing fatigues and reflective vests. The police are in standard uniforms. All are wearing masks.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Joe Veyera discuss an anti-mandate protest headed for Washington, DC, plus more on the upcoming French presidential election, International Court of Justice hearings over the war in Ukraine, a protest march in Pakistan and South Korea’s presidential election.

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

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Thibault Spirlet, Irene Villora, Jaime Calle Moreno, Vivian Wang and Joe Veyera.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com

Transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

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 March 3rd.

In this week’s forecast we’ll look at the upcoming French presidential election, hearings at the International Court of Justice over the war in Ukraine, a protest march in Pakistan, South Korea’s presidential election and an anti-mandate protest headed for Washington, DC.

Of course, you can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter.

Deadline for candidates to register for French presidential election

Information compiled by Thibault Spirlet

JIMMY: French presidential hopefuls have until Friday to register for this year’s election.

Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron hasn’t declared his intention to run, but he is expected to make an announcement on Saturday. 

Candidates from the rest of France’s major parties have all formally registered.

Still, Macron is polling ahead and analysts believe he’ll win the first round of voting. 

And he’s already received 500 signatures of support from elected officials, which are required for all candidates to get on the ballot. 

Now, Macron will have to announce his candidacy during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and amid problems at home, such as a rise in gas prices. It will also come as the country prepares for Ukrainian refugees. 

Of course, it remains unclear how this will all impact his reelection bid, as some experts argue it might be a double-edge sword, even though his poll numbers have climbed as he responds to the crisis in eastern Europe. 

The official list of candidates will be published on Sunday, six weeks before the first round of voting. 

The election will take place over two rounds on April 10th and April 24th.

International Court of Justice hearings over the war in Ukraine

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Starting Monday, the International Court of Justice will hold two days of public hearings in The Hague over the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine filed a lawsuit on February 26th after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that his military intervention in Ukraine was necessary to stop “genocide” in the eastern Donbas region. 

The case before the United Nations court seeks to determine whether Russia has breached international law through the ongoing offensive.

Now, the hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday will not address the dispute between Kyiv and Moscow over the meaning of the 1948 Genocide Convention, but they will determine the need to impose provisional measures until the case is heard in full.

The International Court of Justice will assess whether the situation is urgent enough to order a halt on Russia’s military actions.

Pakistan protest march against inflation

Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno

JIMMY: The Pakistan People’s Party has begun a long protest march against Prime Minister Imran Khan that is expected to reach Islamabad by Wednesday.

The protest march comes as Pakistan’s economy has been substantially affected by rising petroleum prices, general inflation, a deepening current account deficit and a decrease in their foreign reserves. 

Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is leading the march, starting in Karachi and passing through 34 different cities on its way to the capital’s parliament building, where a mass sit-in will be staged. 

The rally will reportedly finish with the announcement of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Khan.

Now, a protest march such as this one, particularly in an economy already under pressure, could be a catalyst for clashes in Pakistan. 

Rallies in major public spaces may be a hotspot for violence, especially if heightened security measures lead to arrests. 

Disruption to local businesses and travel is expected throughout the march and it will define the level of support or opposition to the incumbent government, with thousands joining the march when it enters Islamabad.

South Korean presidential elections

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: South Korea’s presidential election is set for Wednesday, following months of national scandal and controversy.

Ruling party politician Lee Jae-myung will face off against conservative opposition member Yoon Suk-yeol.

Liberal Democratic Party candidate Lee is a former governor of Gyeonggi province, and supports a universal basic income proposal and a diplomatic approach to engaging North Korea. 

Conservative People Power Party representative Yoon is a former prosecutor general, who pledges to take a harder line with North Korea and strengthen military and economic ties with the United States. 

Both candidates have been mired in scandals for months, with Lee involved in a land development controversy and Yoon’s wife under scrutiny for her remarks and background. 

Now, there is much at stake for South Korea in this election. The country is dealing with several issues, including soaring home prices, growing personal debt, income gaps and a recent increase in North Korean missile tests. 

Despite this, Lee and Yoon have been trapped in smear campaigns and mudslinging, with some local pundits dubbing the vote the “unlikeable election.”

Convoy expected to reach U.S. capital

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the anti-mandate protests headed for the US capital. For more on that I spoke with Factal Editor Joe Veyera.

JIMMY: Hi, Joe. 

JOE: Hello, Jimmy. Good to be back.

JIMMY: Hey, I guess let’s just dive right into this. You were here a few weeks ago talking about the trucker convoys in Canada and now, I guess we’re about to see some here in the US. Can you tell us about that? And are these the same truckers?

JOE: So, this is a different group of truckers. And as we speak on Wednesday afternoon, the convoy is in Monrovia, Indiana, with plans to reach the DC area by this weekend.

JIMMY: You know, one of the trucker convoys in Canada ended up blocking a pretty major border crossing. Do you think we’ll see any sort of blockades here?

JOE: Border wise, probably not. The online activity we’ve seen thus far related to the convoys has been really focused on descending on the Washington, DC, area.

JIMMY: Speaking of DC, I thought the convoy was supposed to be at the Capitol during the State of the Union. Were they delayed or is this a different convoy?

JOE: Early on that appeared to be a goal, but as you may have seen a rally at the Washington Monument on Tuesday drew less than 100 people, which is not the kind of showing you’re looking for if you want to convey strength in numbers. But the best organized group, which is calling itself the “People’s Convoy,” is setting, and had set, this weekend as their target date.

JIMMY: Well, you know, once they get there, do we know what the convoy’s ultimate goal is?

JOE : As far as this particular convoy is concerned, they’re calling for an end to the national emergency declaration for the pandemic and, quoting their website, “to restore our nation’s constitution” – which is probably something up for interpretation. At least one organizer told Reuters, “we’re not going anywhere” until our demands are met. But that seems like a bit of a moving target when the demand they’re making is freedom.

JIMMY: Well, considering that, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

JOE: So, there are a lot of moving parts here you’d want to keep an eye on. First, just how big is this group? As the “People’s Convoy” passed through Springfield, Missouri, earlier this week, local media estimated there were hundreds of truckers stretching across 15 miles on the highway, but that figure doesn’t account for various spinoff groups on social media that also claim to be en route and it also doesn’t account for truckers that have yet to join the convoy as it makes its main trek. So, reliable crowd estimates at this point are difficult, if not impossible. Then, what happens when they arrive? The main group says they won’t go into Washington, DC, proper, but what they plan to do as far as disruptions go to put pressure on the federal government remains to be seen. And, I said this a few weeks ago in regards to the Canadian protest but it bears repeating here, governments are already lifting many, if not all of the restrictions on the public related to COVID. So, here in Seattle, as of Tuesday, businesses don’t have to verify vaccination status and the mask mandate is ending next week. And this is in one of the most COVID cautious places in the country. So that raises the question of whether this kind of demonstration actually moves anything forward when the momentum is already well towards ending the current mandates.

JIMMY: Well, Joe, as always, I appreciate the update, and I’m sure you’ll let us know if there are any new developments. Thank you for that.

JOE: We’ll be keeping an eye on it. Thanks, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care. 

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Thibault Spirlet, Irene Villora, Jaime Calle Moreno and Vivian Wang. 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@factal.com

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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Photo: Members of the D.C. National Guard man a traffic stop near the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 27 as the district prepares for the “People’s Convoy” and other protests to reach the area this week. (The National Guard)