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Forecast: Hurricane Fiona batters the Caribbean, Russia moves to annex parts of Ukraine, and Cuba votes on family code

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits at a desk

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.

As the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season, Fiona left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Joe Veyera discuss the storm’s human toll, particularly in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and what’s next as the Category 4 hurricane barrels toward Bermuda and Nova Scotia.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 


Week of Sept. 23-30
A Look Ahead

Sept. 23 – Annexation votes in Russian-occupied Ukraine regions  

Russia will move to annex four occupied portions of Ukraine in a series of referendums starting Friday.

What’s happened so far 
Voting will take place in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia, the four eastern and southern Ukrainian regions that Russia either largely or partially occupies. Condemnation of the planned votes was swift, with foreign leaders quickly saying they would not recognize the results which are sure to mirror those of Crimea’s 2014 vote in which 97 percent supported annexation into Russia.

The impact 
Coinciding with the votes, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would undergo its first military mobilization since World War II following a series of stunning defeats at the hands of Ukraine which can partially be attributed to Moscow’s manpower woes. In a speech that signified that Russia was doubling down on the war effort for at least the medium term, Putin announced that existing soldiers would have their contracts extended indefinitely, while Russia would undergo significant mobilization of reserve forces. The annexation votes potentially intertwine with this mobilization by opening the door to existing conscripts entering the war en masse for the first time.


Sept. 23 – Czech Republic holds elections for upper house, local councils

Elections will take place across the Czech Republic beginning Friday to elect local officials and a third of the Senate.

What’s happened so far 
This week’s vote will elect new municipal and city councils. Polling stations will open on Friday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first round of elections for a third of the Senate will also take place on these days with a possible second round scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

The impact 
While Czechs living abroad will not be able to vote, citizens of other EU member countries who have been granted temporary or permanent residence in a Czech municipality can participate in the local elections. The elections come at a time of discontentment in the nation, with protests earlier this month calling on the ruling coalition to control rising energy prices and inflation.


Sept. 23 – U.K. to hold emergency mini-budget  

U.K. Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is expected to announce tax cuts in Friday’s financial statement, in an effort to insulate households and businesses during the cost of living crisis over the winter period. 

What’s happened so far 
Friday’s budget comes a day after a meeting by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, which is expected to raise interest rates by 0.75 percent, the largest single increase in 33 years. Upon his appointment, Kwarteng vowed to work with the bank’s governor on a two-pronged fiscal approach to bring down the country’s high rate of inflation.

The impact 
Kwarteng is expected to reverse the planned national insurance rise announced by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and freeze the corporation tax, measures estimated to cost £30 billion ($34 billion). Businesses are calling for additional support to pay elevated energy bills, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned further borrowing could deteriorate public finances and break fiscal rules. 


Sept. 25 – Cuba family code referendum  

Cubans will go to polls Sunday to endorse or reject a new family code already approved by lawmakers and by a popular consultation. 

What’s happened so far 
In a rare referendum, Cubans will have a say on the validity of a new law that legalizes same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, outlaws corporal punishment of children and expands women’s rights and the rights of the elderly. More than 200,000 staff and volunteers will work at polling stations on the day of the vote, and more than 1.6 million Cubans are expected to participate in the referendum.

The impact 
In the popular consultation held in July, nearly 76 percent of participants voted in favor of passing the bill, but public opinions on the family code are polarized and the vote on Sunday is expected to be close. Representatives of the Cuban Catholic Church have openly opposed amendments that recognize same-sex marriage and surrogate pregnancies and have urged the public to vote against the bill. Cuba’s family code has not been revised since 1975 and its passing would be a human rights milestone.


Sept. 25 – Italy general elections

Italians will vote Sunday in the country’s snap general elections.

What’s happened so far 
Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi failed to survive a no-confidence vote in July after the populist Five Star Movement garnered support from the governing coalition. As a result, the government collapsed, triggering a snap election. The populists, led by Giuseppe Conte, have since refused to join the center-left coalition led by the Democratic Party in the elections, while the right-wing has assembled a four-party coalition.

The impact 
Recent polls all indicated the center-right coalition will win the most votes, with Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party expected to win the most out of the four parties. Anxiety over Europe’s energy crisis and the state of Italy’s economy, with inflation hitting a 37-year high at 8.4 percent in August, has widely dominated political discourse in Italy. Under normal circumstances these parliamentary procedures would take months, but the new government will be under pressure to form and approve the country’s financial budget quickly in order to meet the EU submission deadline at the end of October.


Sept. 27 – Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe’s state funeral  

Mourners and foreign dignitaries will pay their respects to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a state funeral at the Nippon Budokan indoor arena in Tokyo on Tuesday.

What’s happened so far 
Abe was shot and killed by an assassin using a homemade gun while on the campaign trail in Nara on July 8, two days ahead of the House of Councillors elections on July 10. The alleged gunman remains in detention for medical evaluation. Days later, the decision was made to grant a state funeral to Abe, who was Japan’s longest serving post-war prime minister.  Thousands gathered in Tokyo on Monday to demonstrate against the decision, despite heavy rain and winds from Typhoon Nanmadol.

The impact 
Abe’s state funeral, an honor normally only afforded to members of the Imperial Family, has been contentious, with the Japanese government footing the bill for the ceremony, which may cost more than $11 million. Lawmakers, as well as members of the public, have also called into question the legality of the decision amid intensified scrutiny into Abe’s ties to a controversial church. 


Sept. 28 – Guinea sets trial date for stadium massacre suspects  

Trials will open Wednesday for more than a dozen suspects accused of involvement in a deadly 2009 attack on a stadium in Conakry, Guinea.

What’s happened so far 
Court proceedings will open on the anniversary of the massacre in which Guinea security forces opened fire on pro-democracy protesters at Conakry’s multi-purpose stadium. More than 150 demonstrators were killed in the attack, while more than 100 women were raped by Guinean security forces. 

The impact 
Among the defendants is former Guinea junta leader Moussa Camara who returned to the country last year after fleeing to Burkina Faso in the months following the massacre. While announcing the trial, Guinea’s justice minister said he hoped the trial would lead to the emergence of a “new vision” for the West African nation. Guinea continues to exist under the rule of a military government that came to power in a coup one year ago and has exerted despotic control.


Sept. 29 – U.S. vice president meets with South Korean president  

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Seoul next week, capping her visit with a meeting with President Yoon Suk-yeol on Thursday.

What’s happened so far 
This is the first visit by Kamala Harris after Yoon Suk-yeol won the elections in March, and only four months after President Joe Biden visited the country to strengthen the alliance. Before her stop in South Korea, Harris will travel to Tokyo, where she will lead the U.S. delegation to the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

The impact 
The meeting aims to strengthen the relationship between both nations, and the leaders are expected to discuss economic security and regional and international issues. In May, both nations agreed to rethink the alliance they signed in 1953 to adapt themselves to the current new worldwide order and contribute to the newly-ratified Korea-U.S. Global Comprehensive Strategic Alliance and “advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.”


What Else Matters

An aid worker with American Red Cross vest on, walks down a rainy sidewalk that is blocked by debris from Hurricane Fiona
An American Red Cross worker surveys damage in Salinas, Puerto Rico, left behind by Hurricane Fiona on Sept. 19. (Photo: Isaac León Vales / American Red Cross)

Hurricane Fiona

At least five people have died in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, with the storm knocking Puerto Rico’s power grid offline and leaving more than 1 million people in the Dominican Republic without water service. The first major hurricane of the Atlantic season, Fiona brought heavy rainfall and devastating flooding across the Caribbean, but the full extent of the damage may not be known for several more days. 

Watch for: As of Wednesday, the forecast track has the storm remaining well off the U.S. East Coast, bringing heavy rainfall to Bermuda on Thursday before impacting Atlantic Canada this weekend. President Biden has already approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Maria in 2017. That storm damaged more than 80 percent of the territory’s electric transmission and distribution system, with the island plagued by blackouts in the years since. 


Iran protests 

Kurdish-Iranian woman died while in custody last Friday, after being detained by Iran’s so-called “morality police” for allegedly failing to comply with the country’s hijab regulations. Police deny eyewitness reports that Mahsa Amini was beaten during her arrest, claiming she died from a “heart attack or stroke.” Amini’s funeral at her Kurdish hometown of Saqez on Sept. 17 sparked a series of country-wide protests, during which Iranian police’s use of live ammunition and tear gas have left at least three people dead and hundreds injured.

Watch for: Amini’s death in prison is sparking levels of anti-government demonstrations not seen since another Iranian woman was shot dead during an anti-government protest in Tehran in 2009. Iranian forces have responded by continuing to reinforce their crackdown to repress the protests, especially in the country’s Kurdistan province, in which several people were arrested. Mobile internet was almost completely cut off nationwide on Wednesday, according to the NetBlocks monitoring group, though Iranian officials have denied decreasing bandwidth amid the protests. 


Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Sept. 23-30 

Sept. 23

  • Ontario school workers strike
  • Sri Lanka to present debt restructuring, IMF bailout plans to creditors
  • UK to hold emergency mini-budget 
  • Annexation votes in Russian-occupied Ukraine regions

Sept. 24

  • UK Labour party conference
  • Arizona abortion law enters effect
  • Pakistan’s Imran Khan announces resumption of “Haqiqi Azaadi” movement

Sept. 25

  • BMW Berlin Marathon
  • Sao Tomean National Assembly Election
  • Cuba family code referendum
  • Italy elections

Sept. 26

  • IAEA 66th General Conference
  • Border between Colombia and Venezuela opens

Sept. 27

  • Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe’s state funeral
  • UN Security Council to meet on Afghanistan
  • President Biden visits Orlando

Sept. 28

  • President Biden hosts leaders of Pacific Island nations in Washington

Sept. 29

  • Kuwait parliamentary elections
  • Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health at the White House
  • President of South Korea meets U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris in Seoul

Sept. 30

  • EU plans summit on emergency energy plans

Oct. 1-7 

Oct. 1

  • Latvia elections
  • Kurdistan parliamentary elections
  • Gas prices to increase in Ecuador

Oct. 2

  • Brazil presidential election
  • Bulgaria elections
  • London Marathon
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives election
  • Ukraine debate at UN Human Rights Council

Oct. 3

  • Eurogroup meeting

Oct. 4

  • UK’s National Grid emergencyexercise

Oct. 5

  • Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez meets German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Madrid

Oct. 6

  • EU-Israel Association Council will resume negotiations after a decade
  • Nobel Prize for Literature announced
  • EU heads of state summit in Prague

Oct. 7

  • Lesotho general elections

Oct. 8-14 

Oct. 9

  • Austrian presidential election

Oct. 11

  • EU Informal meeting of energy ministers
  • Alex Saab trial in Miami

Oct. 13

  •  EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting

Oct. 14-21

Oct. 16 

  • 20th Chinese Communist Party National Congress

Oct. 17

  • Former South Africa president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial

Oct. 19

  • Judgment on appeal filed by two people charged with committing terrorism for their role in Garissa University terrorist attack in Kenya

Oct. 20

  • Renewed Israeli guidelines for West Bank entry come into effect

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