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Forecast: Iraqi lawmakers quit parliament, WHO holds emergency meeting on monkeypox, and Belarus holds military exercises near Ukraine border

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stand in front of a series of EU flags

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

After dozens of Iraqi lawmakers recently resigned from parliament, the country’s leaders are now faced with forming a new government. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Factal’s Middle East and Africa desk lead Ahmed Namatalla discuss how the departure by members of powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc will affect the ongoing political crisis. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of June 17-24
A Look Ahead

June 17

European Commission issues opinion on Ukraine’s request

On Friday, the European Commission is expected to issue a statement on whether Ukraine should be granted EU citizenship.

What’s happened so far

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Sunday to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in her second visit since the start of the war in February. During a joint press conference, Von der Leyen expressed optimism about the possibility of the country becoming a member state, but she also stressed the need for Kyiv to carry out further legislative reforms and emphasized that joining the EU must be a “merit-based” process. Zelenskyy has repeatedly urged the EU to approve a Ukrainian membership process since the beginning of the war, arguing that Russian President Vladimr Putin’s offensive on the country is only the beginning of a wider European campaign. 

The impact 

If the commission recommends Ukraine’s candidacy on Friday, all 27 governments will hold talks to potentially approve the move at the end of June. Some countries like France and Germany have been hesitant toward fast-tracking the decision, on the grounds of fairness to other nations that have been waiting to enter the bloc for years. Even if Ukraine wins full endorsement, a lengthy period of legal reforms will begin — Kyiv will have to prove economic resilience to join the single market and take effective steps to meet the democratic standards of the bloc. 

June 18

China shopping day

China’s government is hoping Saturday, the country’s second-biggest shopping day of the year, will kick-start economic activity following the downturn caused by a spike in coronavirus infections that prompted officials to reimpose lockdowns in major metropolitan centers such as Shanghai and Beijing.

What’s happened so far

Despite a slight recovery in industrial output in May, China’s retail sales tumbled more than seven percent from a year earlier, compounding an 11-percent contraction the month before. The government is turning to state-owned banks for as much as $120 billion to finance infrastructure projects in an effort to reverse the economy’s decline and surge in unemployment registered in April.

The impact 

Even through the past two years of the coronavirus pandemic, China has been able to count on retail spending to weather dips. That changed as the sector posted its first contractions this year, a development that will be tested with the upcoming discount-shopping festival, dubbed the 618. Last year’s event boosted sales by more than 26 percent for the country’s biggest online retailers, including Alibaba Group and Investors piled into those and other Chinese stocks this week, betting on recovery.

June 19

Colombia presidential election runoff

Colombia will choose a new president on Sunday, which will likely shift the country’s political direction for years to come.

What’s happened so far 

No candidate received 50 percent of last month’s vote, so the two leading candidates advanced to the runoff: leftist and former M-19 guerrilla rebel Gustavo Petro and former Bucaramanga mayor Rodolfo Hernandez, a man compared to former U.S. President Donald Trump for his right-wing populist views who built support through social media. Recent polls show a neck-and-neck race between both men. 

The impact 

Whichever candidate wins, experts say the United States could be losing a key ally in the region. Petro has talked about ending the U.S.-backed war on drugs. Hernandez has looked at fracking, despite warnings from climate change advocates. Allegations of fraud and irregularities are fairly common in Colombia following elections, so whichever candidate loses could inspire protests from his followers, especially in a close election.

June 19

Second round of French parliamentary elections

France will hold the second round of National Assembly elections on Sunday to finish electing MPs for a new five-year term. Candidates who did not cross the 50 percent threshold in the first round of voting on June 12 will move to the runoff.

What’s happened so far 

In the first round of elections, French President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble coalition took a slight lead with 25.75 percent of the popular vote — just ahead of the 25.66 percent for the Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale (NUPES) left-wing alliance. Notably, the far-right Rassemblement National party led by Marine Le Pen — who lost to Macron in the presidential election runoff two months ago — received 18.68 percent of the vote. Voter turnout reached a record low in the first round, with more than 50 percent of registered voters not casting their ballots.

The impact 

The stakes are high for the runoff election given the open-ended results of the first round. While Macron’s bloc hopes to secure a large majority in the assembly to enable him to pass laws, observers say a strong turnout for the NUPES coalition could give the leftist alliance a chance to be a dominant parliamentary opposition, therefore leaving Macron with fewer levers of power to push through his reform agenda.

June 20

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will begin in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Monday after being postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

What’s happened so far 

Held biennially, delegations from 54 countries across the world attend the CHOGM, which this year aims to discuss the theme “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming.” The meetings are scheduled for the weekend and will be preceded by a number of forums convened by youth and gender activists, business leaders and civil representatives. 

The impact

The meeting comes amid a diplomatic row with neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo over allegations of renewed violence as well as asylum plan tensions with the United Kingdom. Rwanda, for its part, has stressed its readiness to host the meeting, which enables President Paul Kagame to showcase his importance in diplomatic networks and showcase his soft power. 

June 22

Belarus to begin military exercises in region bordering Ukraine

Belarus will conduct military mobilization exercises beginning Wednesday in its Gomel region, according to state media.

What’s happened so far 

The exercises will last from June 22 to July 1 and take place in the southeastern Gomel region which borders Ukraine’s north and served as a launchpad for tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to flood north of Kyiv just months prior. These drills follow the creation of a new military command specific to southern Belarus and increased activity of Belarusian military assets moving in the direction of the border.

The impact 

Though Belarus served as a vital staging ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s north and has been the launch site for hundreds of Russian missiles into Ukraine, Minsk never fully joined active hostilities. Still, tensions are sure to be high in the border region during the exercises, with the threat of Russian forces in Belarus re-invading Ukraine’s north remaining as missile strikes on Ukraine’s bordering Chernihiv region persist. What seems more likely, however, is that Russia is using the threat of a renewed Kyiv offensive to force Ukraine to commit resources to defending the north as Moscow pushes to consolidate control of the east.

June 23

WHO emergency meeting on monkeypox

The World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee on Thursday to decide whether monkeypox should be classified a public health emergency of international concern.

What’s happened so far 

Cases of monkeypox, a viral zoonotic disease, have so far been confirmed in more than 30 countries since May, including seven countries where the virus is endemic. Earlier this month, Germany stepped up its response by recommending Imvanex vaccinations to all adults with increased risk of monkeypox exposure or infection. Meanwhile, the EU has said it will sign an agreement with an unnamed manufacturer for around 110,000 doses of a monkeypox vaccine to be delivered at the end of June.

The impact 

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said it was time to convene about monkeypox because the virus is now behaving unusually, more countries are affected, and there is a need for international coordination. If the status of the outbreak is raised, the WHO will be able to better coordinate the research and response to the virus and the distribution of vaccines.

What Else Matters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sits at a desk and signs the U.K. withdrawal agreement. Behind him are two United Kingdom flags.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement with the EU in January 2020. The deal faces a fresh challenge over the Northern Ireland Protocol. (Photo: Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)

Iraqi lawmakers quit parliament as political crisis deepens

This past Sunday, 73 Iraqi lawmakers from the Shiite Sadrist bloc submitted their resignations following a request by the movement’s leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr. This move was in protest of a political deadlock that has engulfed the country ever since general elections were held in October 2021. Although Al-Sadr won 73 out of the parliament’s total 329 seats, he has been unable to gain the two-thirds majority needed to elect Iraq’s next president and thereafter select a new prime minister. 

Watch for: Although Iraq’s parliament speaker has accepted the resignations, analysts believe the move will need to be ratified by an absolute majority. If that goes through, the responsibility of forming a new government would fall on the rival Coordination Framework bloc, consisting of lawmakers ranging from the former Al-Maliki premier’s party and the pro-Iran Fatah alliance. Sadr’s followers believe this move, although a setback for his party, will help parliament move forward with fundamental decisions needed to alleviate the country’s post-conflict economy that has left 41 million people in poverty.

U.K. reveals plans to ditch parts of EU Brexit deal

The British government has introduced legislation to override parts of the Brexit deal it struck with the European Union, setting it up for a legal showdown. The United Kingdom says it wants to change part of the deal, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, to make the flow of goods in Northern Ireland easier and to alleviate bureaucratic demands on businesses, but the EU maintains that it should stick to the deal it agreed, calling efforts to renegotiate it “unrealistic.” The Economist acknowledged the need for change, but branded the U.K.’s approach a “terrible idea.” Ireland’s Prime Minister has called the legislation a “fundamental breach of trust,” but U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists the proposal is “not a big deal.” 

Watch for: There’s no appetite for a full-scale trade war between the United Kingdom and the EU, but both sides also can’t underplay the significance of it. The EU has a range of options when considering its response, and it has already restarted legal action against the U.K. The legislation is still at the discussion stage in parliament, and has several hurdles to overcome before it passes and takes effect.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…
Factal members can see our full editorial calendar in the Upcoming tab or download it from our Resources page.

June 16-24

June 16

  • Eurozone finance ministers meet
  • Tunisia’s UGTT union calls for national strike
  • Italian PM Draghi, French President Macron, and German Chancellor Scholz to visit Kyiv

June 17

  • European Commission to give opinion on Ukraine’s candidacy request 

June 18

  • China shopping festival

June 19

  • Colombia presidential election runoff
  • National Assembly of France second round election

June 20

  • Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda
  • Indonesia to host G20 health ministers meeting

June 21

  • Primaries in Virginia, and runoffs in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia
  • 16th ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting
  • Switzerland and Singapore host fintech confereence

June 22

  • Belarus to hold military exercises in southeastern Gomel region bordering Ukraine
  • International Air Show in Berlin

June 23

  • European Council meeting
  • WHO emergency meeting on monkeypox

June 25-July 1

June 26

  • New York City’s Pride March
  • G7 summit begins in Schloss Elmau, Germany
  • NASA to launch rockets from Australia’s north for scientific studies

June 28

  • Primaries in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma and Utah, and runoffs in Mississippi and South Carolina

June 28

  • NATO summit in Madrid
  • Primaries in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma and Utah, and runoffs in Mississippi and South Carolina

June 30

  • Parliamentary elections in Libya
  • Philippines President-elect Ferdinand Marcos takes office
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Moscow

July 1

  • Japan to ask households, companies to save energy
  • Czech Republic takes over the EU presidency

July 2-8

July 3

  • Pope Francis visits the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan

July 4

  • U.S Independence Day
  • NASA to launch rockets from Australia’s north for scientific studies
  • Pope Francis visits DR Congo

July 5

  • Pope Francis visits South Sudan

July 7

  • G20 foreign ministers meet in Indonesia’s Bali

July 9-15

July 10

  • Japan to hold upper house election
  • Congolese National Assembly election

July 14

  • President Biden to visit Israel, West Bank and Saudi Arabia
  • Bastille Day in France

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