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Forecast: India’s presidential elections, Tunisia constitutional reform and Europe heat wave

Pope Francis points at something off photo. He is in the traditional dress of the Pope, all white robes with a gold chain and cross.

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.

A brutal heat wave that scorched Europe over the past week has been connected to hundreds of deaths and widespread fires that forced thousands  from their homes. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jess Fino discuss the record-setting temperatures and how such heat waves may be the new normal.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of July 22-29
A Look Ahead

July 22

Macau reopens

The Chinese territory of Macau will attempt to reopen businesses Friday following closures due to coronavirus.

What’s happened so far 
Macau, the world’s preeminent gambling hub, originally shut down businesses on July 11 before extending the closure through Friday in order to abide by Beijing’s “zero Covid” policy. The city has also ordered all of its residents to get coronavirus tests as the city deals with its worst outbreak with more than 1,700 infections recorded since mid-June.

The impact 
Approximately 90 percent of the city being vaccinated against coronavirus and this is the first serious outbreak the city has faced since the introduction of the omicron variant. However, the densely populated city only has one public hospital. The reopening comes as China grapples with coronavirus clusters elsewhere, such as Shanghai, that prompted lockdowns and testing under China’s strict policies.

July 22

India’s presidential elections

On Friday, India’s state legislators and members of parliament will elect the country’s new president.

What’s happened so far 
On Monday, as many as 5,000 politicians cast their votes for the two candidates chosen by the ruling coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition. The BJP’s candidate is Draupadi Murmu, a former teacher and state governor from India’s large Santhal tribal group in Odisha. The opposition chose Yashwant Sinha, the former finance minister of the BJP, of which he is now a vocal critic. The winning candidate will officially replace current President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday.

The impact 
With BJP’s large backing, Murmu is set to become the first tribal and second female president in India’s history. While the head of state role is largely ceremonial and acts on the advice of ministers, India’s presidential history has shown that individuals can sway public opinion or cause political issues. Championed as a “leader of the marginalized,” Murmu’s election would give hope to the large Indian tribal population that their social and economic status will progress quicker than before. 

July 24

Pope Francis to visit Canada

Pope Francis will begin his week-long visit to Canada on Sunday as a “pilgrimage of penance” for abuses toward the country’s indigenous people.

What’s happened so far 
This is the first trip the pope will take after suffering from a knee injury that prompted the cancellation of a trip to Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan earlier this month. The pope is scheduled to deliver nine homilies and addresses and celebrate two Masses as he visits Edmonton, Maskwacis, Lac Ste. Anne, Quebec and Iqaluit. 

The impact 
The trip comes after last year’s discovery of the remains of more than 200 indigenous children at a former state-sanctioned school run by the Catholic Church. These state-sanctioned schools operated between 1831 and 1996 saw thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes, with many subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition. Through this trip, which includes apologies during at least five encounters with the country’s native people, the pope hopes to help heal the “evil” committed against Canada’s Indigenous population.

July 25

French president visits Cameroon and Benin

France’s President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Cameroon and Benin for a three-day visit beginning Monday, his first trip to the African continent since his re-election in April. 

What’s happened so far 
Macron will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna. In Benin, he will visit 26 stolen artifacts that France returned in 2021 as part of an initiative to remedy colonial-era lootings. In Cameroon, he is expected to meet with President Paul Biya to discuss bilateral relations and funding to support the reconstruction of Cameroon’s crisis-ridden Anglophone regions. 

The impact 
Macron’s visit comes as France is withdrawing their military support from other West African nations, including Mali, which has led to a rise in anti-French sentiment from the military government. Macron is said to be concerned about rising Russian influence as French troops withdraw, with this visit designed to serve as a reminder of France’s links with and support for its former colonies.

July 25

Tunisia constitutional referendum

Exactly one year to the day after President Kais Saied dismissed his government and suspended parliament, voters in Tunisia will weigh in Monday on a new draft constitution for the country.

What’s happened so far 
Saied has ruled by decree since last July, invoking emergency powers in the wake of widespread protests in response to the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing economic woes. In the following months, he further tightened his grip on power with the dismissals of several more high-ranking officials and a suspension of the current constitution, moves opponents likened to a presidential coup.

The impact 
The proposed draft constitution would cement further powers in the president’s office, allowing Saied to appoint government ministers without parliamentary approval and give him the ability to declare a state of exception in cases of “imminent danger” without oversight. Analysts say the measure is likely to pass, with several opposition groups calling on their supporters to boycott the vote instead of voting no. Political rivals also expressed concern that, if passed, the new constitution could trigger further unrest.

July 27

Fed rates decision

The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to continue hiking interest rates when it meets Wednesday, having struggled to contain inflation now running at a 40-year-high. Interest-rate moves in the United States are closely tracked, if not copied, by developed and developing countries alike for purposes of maintaining competitiveness and managing their currencies.

What’s happened so far 
Supply-chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are fueling the surge in prices in the United States for everything from fuel to food and consumer goods. Meanwhile, economic output shrank in the first quarter and appears to have done the same in the second, meeting the popular definition of a recession. Federal Reserve officials signaled last month they’re willing to risk slowing the economy down even further in order to prevent high inflation from becoming “entrenched.”

The impact 
Raising interest rates makes it more expensive to borrow money, disincentivizing investment and increasing the appeal of saving. Unlike past slowdowns, the job market remains strong, giving the central bank room to fight inflation at the expense of economic growth. Republicans are capitalizing on the issue in their effort to regain power in Congress at the November midterm election, where polls show they could win both chambers of the legislature.

July 27

UK rail strike

U.K. rail workers have called a national strike for Tuesday amid an ongoing row with Network Rail over salaries and working conditions 

What’s happened so far 
Thousands of unionized workers are expected to walk out for 24 hours following similar actions in June after Network Rail offered a 4 percent raise to staff conditioned by contractual changes to “modernize” working practices. Unions found the offer to be insufficient, instead demanding a pay raise of at least 7 percent to alleviate the pressure of inflation and improvements in working conditions that guarantee job security.   

The impact 
Wide disruptions are expected amid the start of the school holiday, with commuter count slowly returning after the pandemic, and coinciding with the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Two other unions could join the strike, causing wider impact. While Network Rail said the dispute will continue “for as long as it takes,” the government has approved a plan to allow agency workers to replace staff workers who participate in the strikes. 

July 28

Commonwealth Games begin

Athletes and spectators will gather at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, England, for the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Thursday. After the opening ceremony, the more than 5,000 athletes will compete in multiple disciplines, including track and field, swimming and cycling.

What’s happened so far 
Birmingham was chosen as the host city after the original host of Durban, South Africa, was unable to continue due to financial constraints. The city follows in the footsteps of Australia’s Gold Coast, which hosted the games in 2018. Countries that are member states of the Commonwealth, as well as their territories, are eligible to send athletes to compete, with competitors expected from more than 70 delegations, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.

The impact 
Given the four-year spacing this is the first Commonwealth Games to be held since the coronavirus pandemic began. Organizers have said they will comply with U.K. government regulations around coronavirus, which have been significantly loosened, but cases remain high across the country.

What Else Matters

A gif built from satellite imagery that shows wildfire burn scars in France
The European Space Agency is monitoring record temperatures and deadly wildfires across Europe, including in Gironde, France, seen in the animation above. The images show burn scars between July 12 and 17. (Gif: European Space Agency)

Europe heat wave

Western and Southern Europe have been hit by an extreme heat wave over the past week, causing deadly wildfires across Spain, Portugal and France that have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Record temperatures have been recorded in several cities of France, including 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in Nantes. Portugal recorded 47 C (116.6 F) last Thursday, a record for July. Hundreds of deaths have also been blamed on sweltering temperatures in Portugal and Spain, with several fires still active in the Iberian Peninsula.

Watch for: After the heat wave first hit Spain, Portugal and France, the soaring temperatures spread to the United Kingdom and Netherlands, which recorded their hottest days this week with temperatures reaching nearly 40 C (104 F). Forecasters say the heatwave is continuing to head north with Belgium and Germany also expected to see temperatures close to 40 C (104 F). Recent studies concluded climate change is making heatwaves worse and more frequent. These temperatures are usually uncommon so early in the summer, meaning some areas were unprepared to deal with the heat. Countries are now trying to better prepare for what scientists say could become the new normal.

Resignation of Italian PM Draghi

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi submitted his resignation Thursday after failing to reach a majority in a no-confidence vote when center-right and populist Five Star Movement bloc members left the Senate mid-vote in boycott. After accepting Draghi’s resignation, President Sergio Mattarella asked him to remain in office as a caretaker prime minister until a snap election is held, likely early October.

Watch for: Opinion polls suggest Italy’s right-wing parties have gained prominence in a post-pandemic environment, with the leader of Brothers of Italy party, Giorgia Meloni, gaining a high prediction of 23.8 percent. Analysts believe center-right parties boycotted the no-confidence vote because they are likely to win elections to elect a new premier. Snap-elections also mean the country could postpone the economic recovery package that Draghi’s coalition was set to put forward in October.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

July 21-29

July 21

  • San Diego Comic-Con begins
  • Former Pakistani PM Imran Khan holds rally in Sindh and Hyderabad

July 22

  • Macau businesses reopen

July 23

  • 11th ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia
  • Pride street party in Berlin

July 24

  • Pope Francis visits Canada

July 25

  • Tunisia constitution referendum
  • India legislators choose new president
  • French President Macron visits Benin and Cameroon

July 26

  • Nationwide protest planned against university teachers’ strike in Nigeria
  • U.S. Fed meeting

July 27

  • French President Macron visits Benin
  • U,K. rail strike

July 28

  • Commonwealth Games begin

July 30-Aug. 5

July 31

  • Second round of Congolese National Assembly elections
  • Senegalese National Assembly elections

Aug. 1

  • Germany to stop buying Russian coal

Aug. 2

  • Primaries in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington

Aug. 4

  • Primaries in Tennessee
  • Hungarian President Viktor Orban gives opening address at CPAC

Aug. 6-12 

Aug. 6

  • Brighton Pride in England
  • Amsterdam Pride in the Netherlands
  • Hamburg Pride in Germany

Aug. 9

  • Kenya general election
  • Primaries in Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota and Wisconsin

Aug. 13-19 

Aug. 13

  • Primaries in Hawaii

Aug. 14

  • Pakistan Independence Day

Aug. 15

  • India Independence Day

Aug. 16

  • Primaries in Alaska and Wyoming, runoffs in South Dakota

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