Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.
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The West African nation of Burkina Faso was rocked last weekend with their second coup in just nine months. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Senior Editor Sophie Perryer discuss how anti-French, pro-Russian sentiment played a role and what to watch for next.
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Week of Oct. 7-14
A Look Ahead
Oct. 6 – South Africa’s rail and port workers to strike over wages
Tens of thousands of workers are set to walk off the job at South Africa’s state-owned rail, port and pipeline company on Thursday over wages, sparking fears of wide-scale gridlock.
What’s happened so far
Workers requested a pay raise, but the company’s offer of a 1.5 percent pay increase did not meet their demands, saying the increase should match the increased cost of living as the country’s inflation rate sits at about 7.6 percent. The company also said the number of locomotives in its fleet has declined 25 percent since 2018. That’s in part to a legal battle with a Chinese company that was improperly given a contract using public funds. The case is now resolved but the effects are still being felt. Transnet workers are also dealing with vandalism and theft.
While South Africa’s inflation rate did edge slightly lower recently, it’s unclear if the drop means it’s past its peak or just in a dip. Either way, the company’s latest reported offer of 3 percent increase is unlikely to prevent a strike. South Africa has also been hit especially hard by global supply chain disruptions in recent years. Former President Thabo Mbeki warned the country may go through an Arab Spring-like uprising, with some speculating this strike could be the spark. Both sides have agreed to mediation, but talks won’t start until Oct. 12.
Oct. 7 – U.K. budget office to produce draft of new forecasts
The U.K. Office for Budget Responsibility has been asked by new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng to produce a draft of its next economic forecasts on Friday following announcements made during a mini-budget.
What’s happened so far
Kwarteng, who was appointed by newly-elected Prime Minister Liz Truss as the country’s finance minister, presented a series of controversial tax cuts and regulation during last week’s “mini-budget” in a bid to stimulate growth. The announcement created turmoil in the financial markets with the pound crashing down to an all-time low against the dollar. One of the most controversial measures, a cut in the country’s highest income tax rate, was later scrapped due to large pushback from the public and even members of the Conservative Party.
After the chancellor was criticized for presenting the fiscal statement without the usual OBR forecasts, which measure the impact of the decisions on the country’s growth and borrowing, the watchdog said it has been asked to start preparing their forecasts ahead of the full budget. While the main event is scheduled for Nov. 23 and the chancellor previously said he would wait until then to publish his medium-term fiscal plan along with official forecasts, he is now expected to accelerate the publication of his plan to cut Britain’s debt in an attempt to reassure markets.
Oct. 7 – Lesotho general elections
The small Southern African nation of Lesotho will hold parliamentary elections on Friday, aiming to select a new prime minister and end years of instability by pushing through constitutional changes.
What’s happened so far
Politicians in the landlocked country surrounded by South Africa are going into the vote having failed to pass reforms to bolster the stability of government coalitions, fight nepotism and curtail documented violence by security forces. Lesotho’s supreme court blocked the reforms last month on technical grounds, thwarting a three-year effort by lawmakers that involved the United Nations and European Union.
More than 50 parties are competing for 120 seats in the National Assembly, of which about five stand to gain meaningful representation. With a history of violence, including four military coups over the almost six decades since independence from the United Kingdom, major contenders to take control of the next government and legislature, including the All Basotho Convention and the Democratic Congress, are vowing to move forward with constitutional reforms to help restore stability.
Oct. 9 – Austrian presidential election
Austria will hold presidential elections on Sunday, with the current president seeking re-election to another six-year term.
What’s happened so far
Incumbent President Alexander Van der Bellen of the Green Party is up for re-election and will face off against seven other candidates, including far-right Freedom Party candidate Walter Rosenkranz, who is seeking to rebound the party from its defeat in 2016. Austria uses a two-round electoral system, meaning if no candidate receives a majority in the first round, a runoff will be held on Nov. 6.
Current polling indicates that Austria’s Social Democratic Party is the favorite, though researchers are warning that these elections could be difficult to forecast given the high number of candidates and stark differences in voting habits across regions. Among the issues confronting Austria is the continent-wide energy crisis that has ensnared Vienna, prompting authorities to announce price capping measures to curb skyrocketing energy costs.
Oct. 11 – Japan reopens borders to overseas visitors
On Tuesday, Japan is reopening its borders to mass tourism after two and a half years of tight regulations on visits by foreigners.
What’s happened so far
Japan is one of the last countries in the world with strict and complicated coronavirus guidelines for arrivals in the country, including a cap on the number of daily international visitors. It will lift all restrictions on Tuesday, including a ban on visa-free travel. All visitors, however, will have to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test upon arrival.
Japan saw 32 million tourists in 2019, just before the pandemic hit. Enforcing some of the strictest coronavirus measures in the region hurt its tourism sector and forced more than 4,000 Japanese businesses to go bankrupt. But the reopening of borders, combined with the draw of a weakened yen, could bode well for the country’s economy. It remains to be seen how long it will take foreign businesses, academics and even tourists to trust Japan as a top destination once again.
Oct. 13 – Italy’s parliament elect senate, chamber presidents
Italy’s newly formed parliament will convene next Thursday to elect presidents for the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
What’s happened so far
Following a landslide victory by Italy’s right-wing coalition during the September snap elections, Giorgia Meloni of the Fratelli d’Italia party is set to become the country’s next prime minister. In the first parliamentary session since the government restructuring, parliamentarians will vote for the candidates for the Senate and Chamber presidencies put forward by the governing coalition.
This procedure is essential before the governing coalition can put forward a formal proposal for the position of prime minister to President Sergio Mattarella. Under normal circumstances during spring elections, lawmakers would have months to put forward candidates and form a government. Snap elections in the fall, however, means that the governing coalition must hastily put forward nominees before it can approve the national budget to tackle the country’s sky-high inflation and energy prices ahead of the EU submission deadline by Oct. 15.
Oct. 13 – Vanuatu general election
All 52 seats in Vanuatu’s parliament are up for election on Thursday, to represent a country of just over 300,000 people.
What’s happened so far
President Nikenike Vurobaravu dissolved parliament in August at the request of Prime Minister Bob Loughman, who was facing a proposed no confidence motion. The dissolution triggered an ultimately unsuccessful court challenge by the opposition, which claimed the move was unconstitutional. Among the flashpoints in the current political landscape is the country’s relationship with Beijing, after the government signed economic agreements with China in June.
Reaction to the early election has been mixed, with some finding it overly disruptive with two years left in the original mandate, while others believe it serves as a welcome reset following the election of Vurobaravu earlier this year. Traditionally, Vanuatu has been more politically stable than its Pacific counterparts, including the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
What Else Matters
Burkina Faso coup
Burkina Faso experienced its second military coup in nine months on Friday, after a young army captain named Ibrahim Traoré ousted former military leader Paul-Henri Damiba. After gunfire erupted at military barracks and in the center of the capital Ouagadougou, Traoré appeared on state television and declared himself leader, as well pledging to quickly tackle Burkina Faso’s deteriorating security situation. Damiba subsequently resigned and fled to Togo.
Watch for: The latest military takeover in Burkina Faso is a microcosm of the wider power struggle in West Africa between France and Russia, as the latter seeks to exert its influence, primarily through the use of the Wagner mercenary group. France’s military withdrawal from the Sahel region has coincided with a significant rise in insurgent activity in Burkina Faso and a rise in popular anger against the former colonial power, evidenced by anti-France protests erupting in Ouagadougou following the military coup. Traoré also appears to be in favor of strengthening ties with Moscow, saying “we can also have Russia as a partner.”
Cholera outbreak in Haiti
On Sunday, Haitian government officials announced that a new cholera outbreak has resulted in one death, with another seven deaths yet to be confirmed by authorities. Cholera outbreaks in Haiti have not occured in the last three years, and were responsible for the death of over 10,000 people after the earthquake in 2010. The outbreak comes amid worsening conditions across the country, paired with widespread social unrest and violence over fuel price hikes in mid-September, with gangs blockading major fuel and water supply lines.
Watch for: Haiti, and President Ariel Henry’s government, are heading towards an extremely difficult situation if the cholera outbreak worsens. The massive fuel and clean water shortage in Port-au-Prince and other cities due to gang activity will likely lead to hospitals having to close for a lack of electricity and power. Paired with large and violent protests across the country in recent weeks, Haiti’s severe humanitarian crisis deepens, and is likely to continue. The WHO, UN and MSF have opened cholera treatment centers in the country, and requested emergency oral vaccines for the disease in order to disrupt the spread. Nevertheless, in order to curb the outbreak significantly, gang blockades will have to be stopped, and this could lead to heightened instances of violence in Haiti, already seen in recent months.
Deadly stampede after soccer match in Indonesia
At least 131 people were killed and hundreds of others injured in a devastating series of events following a soccer match last Saturday night in Indonesia’s Malang Regency. Thousands of fans reportedly charged out into the field of Kanjuruhan Stadium after home team Arema FC lost a game, and police responded by firing tear gas into the stadium. Spectators panicked and rushed for the exits, some of which were locked, and many victims were trampled or choked to death in the stampede. FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, said “crowd control gas” should not be carried or used at matches.
Watch for: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has announced an investigation into the stampede, with public dissatisfaction from the incident putting pressure on the government to reform the police. FIFA has not yet commented on how the incident may affect the 2023 Under-20 World Cup, which is slated to be held in Indonesia. The tragedy is also likely to weaken Indonesia’s bid to host the 2023 Asian Cup.
What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…
- EU-Israel Association Council will resume negotiations after a decade
- Nobel Prize for Literature announced
- EU heads of state summit in Prague
- South Africa’s rail and port workers to strike
- Lesotho general elections
- UK railway workers nationwide plan fresh strike
- Austrian presidential election
- World mental health day
- France expected to start sending gas to Germany
- UN General Assembly to meet on Russia “annexation” in Ukraine
- EU Informal meeting of energy ministers
- Alex Saab trial in Miami
- NATO secretary general holds press conference ahead of NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels
- Japan will ease coronavirus border control requirements
- NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels
- EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting
- Italy’s parliament meets
- 20th Chinese Communist Party National Congress
- Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will visit Australia
- World Health Organization summit in Berlin
- Former South Africa president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial
- OECD-Southeast Asia Ministerial Forum
- EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting
- Judgment on appeal filed by two people charged with committing terrorism for their role in Garissa University terrorist attack in Kenya
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation finance ministers meeting
- Renewed Israeli guidelines for West Bank entry come into effect
- EU leaders meet in Brussels
- Slovenia presidential elections
- Taiwan hosts the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy’s World Movement for Democracy summit
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen host a conference on post-war reconstruction of Ukraine
Oct. 29-Nov. 4
- Brazil presidential election runoff
- EU Informal meeting of trade ministers
- Trial of 21 defendants of deadly 2018 fire in Mati, Greece
- General election in Israel
- Denmark general election
- Pope Francis visits Bahrain
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