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Forecast Podcast: Protests in Armenia over possible Nagorno-Karabakh concessions spark fears of mass unrest

Nikol Pashinyan sits at a desk while wearing a dark suit jacket over a white shirt with a grey tone tie. He is seated in front of the Armenian flag.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Imana Gunawan discuss the anti-government protests in Armenia, plus more on the Israeli parliament reconvening, Russia’s annual military parade, Philippine elections and Sudan’s upcoming national dialogue. 

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 Ahmed Namatalla, Alex Moore, David Wyllie, Agnese Boffano and Imana Gunawan.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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


Podcast 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 May 5th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got the Israeli parliament reconvening, Russia’s annual military parade, Philippine elections, Sudan’s upcoming national dialogue and a look at anti-government protests in Armenia.

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

Israel’s Knesset convenes

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla

JIMMY: Israel’s parliament will meet on Sunday. It will be the first time the 120 members of the Knesset have met since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government lost its coalition majority. That boosted Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing opposition effort to regain power.

Bennett’s government, of course, is made up of a wide spectrum of politicians who achieved their one shared goal of ending Netanyahu’s 11-year rule last June. 

But now that coalition is struggling to keep its members on board due to divergent policy views. It now has just 60 seats after the resignation of coalition chairwoman Idit Silman and the decision by the Islamist Ra’am party to suspend its membership. That suspension is in protest of Israeli police violence against Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque over Ramadan.

Now, without a majority, the government will be unable to pass legislation. It will also face an increased risk of collapse if Netanyahu’s bloc is able to pull together enough support for a no-confidence vote, though the chances of that outcome remain slim in the near future because Ra’am is unlikely to support that motion. 

Finally, Bennett’s coalition — which includes prominent figures with their own political ambitions, like Defense Minister Benny Gantz — well, it’s reportedly ordered all its members to attend the first three weeks of the legislative session. The coalition is fighting to stay alive and avoid a deadlock that may force the nation’s weary voters into the fifth election in three years.

Russia Victory Day parade

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Moscow’s annual military parade through Red Square is set to take place on Monday.

Known as “Victory Day” inside Russia, the holiday and the massive military parade is to commemorate the allied victory in World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany — or the Great Patriotic War as Russia calls it. 

Of course, this year’s event will take place under the backdrop of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Moscow used the parade back in 2014 as a chance to flex the country’s strength and patriotism following the annexation of Crimea. 

This year, however, it appears as though the parade will be muted in size in the wake of the severe difficulties and losses Russia has faced in Ukraine.

Now, despite speculation that Russia would prioritize victory in the Battle of the Donbas at all costs prior to Monday’s parade, Russian officials have made clear they would not let the parade impact military timelines in the war. 

All signs on the ground corroborate this, with Russian progress in the Donbas tepid and an increased aversion to casualties observable. 

Still, the parade may provide another glimpse into how far Russia has continued to descend back into a fully authoritarian state.

Philippine elections

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Voters in the Philippines will cast their ballots Sunday. The country’s elections come as incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte’s six years in power come to an end.

An interesting list of candidates has emerged for the presidency and vice presidency, and among them is frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr., commonly referred to as Bongbong Marcos, who is the son and namesake of the country’s former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

President Duterte’s daughter Sara Duterte is running for vice president as Marcos’ running mate. 

Marcos has maintained a wide lead in the polls over his closest rival and current vice president Leni Robredo, but observers say she might still have a shot as her “pink revolution” campaign has attracted large crowds across the country. 

World boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and Manila mayor Francisco Domagoso, commonly referred to as “Isko Moreno,” are both polling within single digits.

Now, among the thousands of elected offices up for grabs, voters will choose the politicians who make up the Senate, House of Representatives and the country’s regional governors. What’s more, they’ll be shaping the political direction of the country for the coming years. 

China and the United States will both look to court whoever wins, especially on the subject of disputed islands in the South China Sea

Finally, on top of geopolitical issues, if Marcos wins, he would have the power to appoint the head of the agency seeking to reclaim the billions of dollars his dictator father stole from the country.

Sudan national dialogue

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Sudan will host a three-day national dialogue forum starting on Tuesday. Expected participants include delegations from the African Union, the United Nations and the eight-nation east African trade bloc called the Intergovernmental Authority in Development.

Sudan has faced a political crisis since the general commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, declared a state of emergency and dissolved the government in October 2021. That was back when the country was headed by Omar Al-Bashir. 

Since then, there have been mass anti-government protests both in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere in the country. Sudan’s Doctors Committee has documented dozens of killings and hundreds of injuries as the military often deploys live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrations.

Now, the upcoming dialogue is aimed at resolving the country’s current political crisis through the formation of a civilian-led government and a transitional legislative assembly. 

Another aim of the discussions, according to the Africa Union’s mediator, would be to move towards holding “proper and credible elections by the end of the transitional period,” which is scheduled to end in February 2023.
 

Anti-government protests in Armenia

Information compiled by Imana Gunawan

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the anti-government protests in Armenia. For more on that I spoke with Factal editor Imana Gunawan.

JIMMY: Hi, Imana. 

IMANA: Hey, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Hey, thanks for talking to us today. I’m hoping you can catch us up to speed on what’s going on in Armenia. It’s been about five months since our podcast has touched on the country’s conflict with Azerbaijan and it seems like there’s been some new developments. What can you tell us about those?

IMANA: Yeah. So, scores of demonstrators basically have reignited protests in the Armenian capital of Yerevan to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. And this comes as, you know, Armenia moves closer to reaching a peace agreement with neighboring Azerbaijan over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karbach. It’s a disputed area in a mountainous region of Azerbaijan, but it’s predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians.

JIMMY: And the peace agreement, it’s related to the fighting there are a couple years ago or so?

IMANA: Yes. So, during the fall of 2020 there was a six-week war over the territory. And during that period, Azerbaijan was able to take control over large areas that had previously been under Armenian control, basically since the early 1990s. And so ever since the two countries signed a Russia-brokered truce in November 2020, Armenia’s Prime Minister Pashinyan has faced backlash, because critics said, you know, the government is apparently willing to compromise Armenian sovereignty in Nagorno-Karabakh, which as I mentioned, has been under Armenian control since early 1990s and is also populated by a lot of ethnic Armenians as well.

JIMMY: Well, in addition to watching for any new clashes between the two sides – that would obviously complicate matters – what else should folks be watching for here?

IMANA: I think people can expect more protests, basically. So, anti-government protesters, including opposition lawmakers, have held daily rallies around Armenia, basically since mid-April. And it’s expected to continue on despite, you know, the arrest of hundreds of people recently. In particular, during a May 2 rally in Yerevan, the parliament vice speaker and opposition leader Ishkhan Sagatelian actually announced the beginning of quote unquote, “large scale” campaign of civil disobedience. So he called for people to strike, for students to, you know, conduct school walkouts, block traffic in central Yerevan, etc. So I think people can definitely expect more protests moving forward.

JIMMY: Well, Imana, I always appreciate having you on the podcast. You manage to squeeze in the maximum amount of information in the short time we have. Thanks for that.

IMANA: Hopefully it helps. Thanks for having me. 

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Ahmed Namatalla, Alex Moore, David Wyllie and Agnese Boffano. Our interview featured editor Imana Gunawan 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. 

Lead photo: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan prior to addressing the nation in December (nikolpashinyan_official / Instagram)

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