Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Sophie Perryer discuss Burkina Faso’s second coup in just nine months, plus more on a strike by South African rail and port workers, Austria’s presidential election, Japan reopening to mass tourism and Italy’s parliament electing presidents for the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. .
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Alex Moore, Halima Mansoor, Agnese Boffano and Sophie Perryer. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Factal Forecast 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 October 6.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got a strike by South African rail and port workers, Austria’s presidential election, Japan reopening to mass tourism, Italy’s new parliament convening and a look at Burkina Faso’s second coup in just nine months.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
South Africa’s rail and port workers to strike over wages
Information compiled by Jeff Landset
JIMMY: Tens of thousands of rail, port and pipeline workers are set to walk off the job in South Africa today. Workers at state-owned Transnet are demanding higher wages.
The workers recently rejected an offer by the company of a 1.5 percent pay increase, saying the increase should match the increased cost of living. After all, the country’s inflation rate is sitting at about 7.6 percent.
Transnet argues that even its current wage bill isn’t sustainable.
Now, 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 a 3 percent increase is unlikely to prevent a strike. And while both sides have agreed to mediation, that won’t start until Oct. 12.
Finally, there is some speculation that this strike could spark protests. And while that remains to be seen, just a few months ago former President Thabo Mbeki warned that the government’s failure to address socioeconomic conditions could lead to unrest, saying even a single event might “spark [South Africa’s] own version of the Arab Spring.”
Austrian presidential election
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: Austria will hold presidential elections on Sunday, with the current president seeking re-election to another six-year term.
Incumbent President Alexander Van der Bellen of the Green Party will face off against seven other candidates, including far-right Freedom Party candidate Walter Rosenkranz.
Rosenkranz 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.
Now, current polling indicates that Austria’s Social Democratic Party is the favorite. Still, 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 and has prompted authorities to announce price capping measures to curb skyrocketing energy costs.
Japan reopens borders to overseas visitors
Information compiled by Halima Mansoor
JIMMY: Japan is reopening its borders to mass tourism on Tuesday. It comes after two and a half years of tight regulations on visits by foreigners.
Japan is one of the last countries in the world with strict and complicated coronavirus guidelines for who or how many can enter the country, including a cap on the number of daily international visitors.
Now, 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.
Still, 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.
Italy’s parliament elect senate, chamber presidents
Information compiled by Agnese Boffano
JIMMY: Italy’s newly formed parliament will convene next Thursday. They’ll be electing new leaders for both houses .
This follows a landslide victory by Italy’s right-wing coalition during the September snap elections.
Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy party [Fratelli d’Italia] 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.
Now, this procedure is essential before the governing coalition can formally submit its 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 rush to put forward nominees before it can form and approve the national budget. A budget essential to tackling the country’s sky-high inflation and energy prices ahead of the European Union’s Oct. 15 submission deadline.
Burkina Faso coup
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the latest coup in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. For more on that I spoke with Factal Senior Editor Sophie Perryer.
JIMMY: Hello, Sophie.
SOPHIE: Hey, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Hey, you know what, let’s just dive right into this. What’s going on in Burkina Faso? They’ve got another coup on their hands?
SOPHIE: They do. It’s certainly a trend in this region and actually one which the UN Secretary General raised concerns about in October last year. So on Friday, Burkina Faso experienced its second military coup in nine months, and it’s actually the second West African country to have two military coups in less than a year after Mali in 2020 and 2021. In terms of what actually happened, a young and relatively unknown army captain named Ibrahim Traoré ousted the former military leader Paul-Henri Damiba, who himself came to power in a military coup earlier in 2022
JIMMY: How did all this go down? Was there any violence?
SOPHIE: Well, initially on Friday morning, gunfire erupted at military barracks in the southern portion of Burkina Faso’s capital. We then became aware of reports of soldiers blocking roads in key junctures of the city and then several hours later we received clarification that the events were in fact a military coup when Traoré appeared on state television and declared himself leader. In that speech, Traoré said he had no choice but to oust Damiba due to his inability to tackle the security situation in the country. And as for Damiba, he subsequently resigned from his post after setting out a list of demands for the new military government, and he now appears to have fled to neighboring Togo.
JIMMY: You know, I guess the big question here is ‘why.’ Why are they having another coup?
SOPHIE: Well, discontent has been rising in Burkina Faso, both within the ranks of the military and within the civilian population, due to Damiba’s perceived failure to tackle the Islamist insurgency, which is affecting particularly the northern Sahel region of the country. And we have seen an uptick in attacks targeting the military recently, including one on September the 26th where at least 27 soldiers were killed in an attack on a supply convoy, according to the army. So that’s the domestic backdrop so to speak. From a regional perspective, Burkina Faso is kind of a microcosm of the power struggle which has been playing out in West Africa over the past 12 months between France, the former colonial power in the region, and Russia, which has sought to exert its influence through a paramilitary group called the Wagner Group. So, France’s military withdrawal from the Sahel region following the political unrest in Mali and other West African countries earlier this year has coincided with an uptick in attacks by these insurgent groups and some West African nations have sort of looked to Russia with regards to providing military support against these groups. And Burkina Faso’s new military leader Traoré did actually make reference to this in his speech when he seized power. He said the country could have Moscow as a “partner” in the efforts to improve the security situation. And sort of alongside this, we’ve seen a rise in anti-French sentiment in Burkina Faso with protesters setting fires outside the French Embassy in Ouagadougou and chanting anti-France slogans in the immediate aftermath of the coup.
JIMMY: And how have things been in the country since Damiba was ousted? How have the Burkinabe citizens reacted to all this?
SOPHIE: Well, aside from these anti-France protests, we’ve also seen demonstrations against ECOWAS, a West African trade body, which arrived in the country on Monday to assess the situation. So Traoré has asked citizens not to disrupt the work of the ECOWAS delegation, which is likely down to the fact that they do hold quite a significant amount of regional sway and they could impose sanctions if they don’t like what they find.
JIMMY: Well, considering all that, what do you think folks should watch for in the days and weeks ahead?
SOPHIE: Traoré has said that he only plans to stay in power temporarily until a new military or civilian transitional president is appointed. So we should be keeping an eye for how that process develops with things like consultations with key political stakeholders and civil society figures as well. From a kind of longer term perspective, after the previous coup Burkina Faso was due to hold elections by July 2024. Traoré has said he will stand by this deadline. So it’s worth observing how preparations for that vote develop. And finally, it’s also worth keeping an eye on the security situation because if the new military government is not successful in bringing down the number of insurgent attacks, we could see another rise in popular anger, which obviously was one of the factors in toppling the previous military government and bringing us to the position that we’re in now. Not that I am predicting a third coup, of course.
JIMMY: Well, Sophie, I think we’ll leave it there for today, but glad you’re following the situation for us. Thanks for catching us up to speed.
SOPHIE: Thanks for having me, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Alex Moore, Halima Mansoor and Agnese Boffano. Our interview featured editor Sophie Perryer and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
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