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Forecast: Ukraine war tensions spiral after errant missile kills two in Poland, World Cup starts in Qatar, and Putin visits Armenia

Lusail Stadium in a mockup

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

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Two people were killed this week when an apparent errant missile landed in Poland, just a few miles from the Ukrainian border. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Joe Veyera discuss reaction to the incident, which is now being called an “unfortunate accident.” 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of Nov. 18-25
A Look Ahead

Nov. 19 – Francophone summit in Tunisia

The leaders of Francophone nations will meet in Djerba, Tunisia, on Saturday for a biannual summit to discuss the global economy, politics and promoting French culture and language. 

What’s happened so far 
The theme of the 2022 summit is “connectivity in diversity” and Tunisian authorities have constructed a village in Djerba just for the event. French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to attend and will meet with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the sidelines, after Macron participated in a peace summit between Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in October.  

The impact 
The summit comes amid rising anti-French sentiment in Francophone African nations, including Burkina Faso and Mali after their respective military coups. The secretary general of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie, which organizes the summit, said the sentiment is an affirmation that young people in Francophone nations did not want to belong to a unified former colonial identity.

Nov. 19 – Malaysia elections  

On Saturday, millions of Malaysians will head to polls, casting their vote for the next prime minister in the country’s 15th snap general election.

What’s happened so far 
Following a four-year political crisis that saw two governments collapse, incumbent Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yakoob’s right-wing National Front coalition — the longest-ruling coalition since independence — faces multiple candidates intending to unseat him. Most notably are Anwar Ibrahim’s center-leaning Alliance of Hope and Muhyiddin Yassin’s National Alliance. Polls show an extremely tight race due to the fragmentation of the opposition and a 2019 constitutional change lowering the voting age. Ibrahim’s coalition leads with 29 percent of the vote, but polls indicate that up to 31 percent of voters remain undecided. 

The impact 
The three main parties expected to take the majorities in parliament suffer underlying issues that may cost them the election, from the ruling party’s high-level corruption scandal to Ibrahim’s time in jail on sodomy charges, which could have been politically motivated, and snap elections being called during monsoon season. Excited young voters may prove to be the tipping point, but with all 222 seats of the lower house up for grabs, whoever holds a simple majority of 112 will win the elections. 

Nov. 20 – World Cup starts  

The World Cup, a month-long international soccer competition, will kick off on Sunday in Qatar with the home country playing against Ecuador. 

What’s happened so far 
Qatar won a bid to host the largest soccer tournament in the world back in 2010, beating the United States and Australia and becoming the first Arab Muslim nation to host the competition. The nomination was controversial amid reports of soccer officials being paid by Qatar to support the nomination. Many also argue the country’s size makes it difficult to welcome the hundreds of thousands of people expected to travel to the tournament. The biggest criticism, however, has been Qatar’s poor record in human rights, given that homosexuality is a punishable crime in the country. Additionally, the event usually takes place in the summer months but had to be moved to November and December due to the climate.

The impact 
The U.S. team has announced it will add the rainbow flag to their logo in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community during the tournament. Denmark’s team will also wear shirts that criticize the human rights record of the host nation, with a black option to bring attention to the migrant workers who reportedly died during the construction work of stadiums. Britain’s foreign minister sparked controversy by urging gay fans to show respect to Qatar. Meanwhile, some reports have emerged of gay people being detained ahead of the tournament. The competition ends on Dec. 18 with Argentina, Brazil and Belgium among some of the favorites to win.

Nov. 20 – Kazakhstan presidential elections  

On Sunday, Kazakhstan will host its seventh presidential election since its independence in 1991, with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev seeking reelection.

What’s happened so far 
Violent protests centered around fuel prices and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s influence rocked the country in January, which led Tokayev to call for a snap presidential election two years ahead of schedule. Seeking reelection in a restricted field of candidates, Tokayev is attempting to break with the country’s former leader, both by renaming the capital back to Astana and extending the presidential term to seven years but making it non-renewable.

The impact 
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe will observe the polls and has already criticized the election as a “low-key” campaign that has failed to generate interest in a preliminary report. One Kazakh survey, however, suggests turnout will exceed 70 percent. Kazakh citizens living outside of the country will be able to vote at 68 polling stations in 53 countries, the foreign ministry said.

Nov. 20 – Nepal election

Nepal will vote on Sunday to elect members of the Federal Parliament and provincial assemblies in only the second general election since the country became a federal republic in 2015. 

What’s happened so far 
Despite an array of independent candidates seeking to leave a mark, the key battle of the election will see the coalition of the ruling party Nepali Congress face off against an opposition coalition led by the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist). The election comes at a crucial time as the country faces a rise in cost-of-living and unemployment, with inflation hitting a 74-month high in September. The final results are expected to be announced by Dec. 8. 

The impact 
Nepal has seen a rise in independent candidates after a few secured wins in the local elections earlier this year, signifying people’s frustration with traditional politicians and politics. Despite this growing disillusionment with tradition and renewed fervor for change, experts believe that beyond a few shock victories by independent candidates, the old guard will prevail on Sunday. 

Nov. 22 – Putin visits Armenia

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday before attending the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) conference in Yerevan on Wednesday.

What’s happened so far 
September’s violent clashes along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border left a total of nearly 300 soldiers dead, but they also seemed to precipitate a step towards peace. Putin, Pashinyan and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met last month and agreed on a prolonged ceasefire and further negotiations. Russia has traditionally acted as a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, with troops deployed as peacekeepers there since 2020. Russia also maintain closes military ties and assistance with Armenia to check the power of Turkish-backed Azerbaijan, but only to an extent. When Armenia asked the member states of the CSTO to intervene on their side in 2020 and 2022, they were politely rebuffed.

The impact 
At least 100,000 Russian citizens have moved to Armenia since the start of Putin’s “special military operation” in order to avoid being conscripted. Putin and Pashinyan are likely to address this exodus and perhaps announce a shift in immigration requirements. Putin will also gauge Pashinyan’s willingness to surrender territory to Azerbaijan in future peace agreements. The CSTO meeting the following day could prompt discussion on Russia’s obligation to intervene in conflicts of member states, as fellow-member Kyrgyzstan was similarly denied assistance in recent border clashes with Tajikistan. Overall, Putin will likely maneuver to keep Armenia firmly within Russia’s sphere of influence as American influence grows in Armenia

Nov. 23 – Start of indefinite production strike in Colombia’s La Mojana  

Representatives of all productive sectors of Colombia’s La Mojana region have called an indefinite strike starting Wednesday to demand a response from the government on the economic impacts of months-long flooding.

What’s happened so far 
Colombia’s northern subregion of La Mojana has been heavily hit by floods caused by prolonged periods of rain over the past year with crops lost to the overflowing of the Cauca river, land for farming submerged and diseases spreading among the population of flooded neighborhoods due to a lack of sufficient sanitary measures. Representatives of the national government and local officials held talks last month to come up with a plan of action toward recovery in the area, but mayors from affected communities claim that aid has not come through

The impact 
All productive sectors, including industries, businesses and farming, will indefinitely halt operations on Wednesday to put pressure on the government to comply with the agreed recovery measures and to demand the creation of contingency plans amid fears of renewed flooding and long-lasting damage to the local economy. The organizations calling the strike have announced a peaceful blockade of the Troncal del Caribe, one of the country’s main roads.

What Else Matters

Leaders of the G20 sit at a large table.
President Biden met with G20 leaders in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss the explosion in Poland near the Ukrainian border. (Photo: POTUS / Twitter)

Missile lands in Poland

Two people were killed in an explosion in the Polish village of Przewodów on Tuesday, near the country’s border with Ukraine, sparking concerns of NATO entanglement in the ongoing conflict with Russia. Those fears, however, were eased after preliminary findings showed the missile that fell in the border area was likely launched by Ukrainian air defenses during a period of intense Russian shelling and was not an intentional attack on the country.

Watch for: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia “bears ultimate responsibility” for the strike, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed doubts that the missile was fired by Ukraine. For its part, the Kremlin accused Poland of an “absolutely hysterical” reaction to the incident, while claiming it had not conducted any missile strikes within 20 miles of the border. In spite of the dispute over responsibility, it appears unlikely that this will trigger a significant escalation in the conflict or any large-scale NATO intervention at this time. World leaders did issue a joint declaration at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Wednesday, that “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” and called for a complete and unconditional withdrawal.

Ethiopia claims nearly three-fourths of Tigray under military control 

Aid delivery has resumed in Ethiopia’s war-torn region of Tigray following a shaky truce between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and local forces, with Ethiopia’s government claiming that 70 percent of the region is under military control. The Red Cross drove aid trucks to the capital of Mekelle for the first time since a previous ceasefire ended in August. Ahmed’s national security adviser says dozens of trucks carrying food and medicine have arrived in the northwestern town of Shire, which Ethiopian forces captured in October. These supplies are badly needed by 5.5 million people in the region, especially following the conflict that is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands

Watch for: Ceasefires in this region have failed before, and it’s unclear if Eritrean forces will abide by the truce as the country shares a border with Ethiopia and was indirectly mentioned in the latest deal. Eritrean forces have been accused of killing civilians and looting, even during peace talks last month. This truce already shows signs of instability after Tigrayan officials disputed claims that aid was flowing into the region. If the ceasefire fails, watch for violence against aid workers or international peacekeepers in the region.

PKK arrests following Istanbul explosion

Six people were killed and more than 80 others were injured after a bomb detonated on a major street in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district last Sunday. The incident was declared a “terrorist act” shortly after, with the interior minister claiming to have arrested the main suspect, who is believed to be a member of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Since then, at least 50 more suspects have been arrested for alleged connections to the outlawed group that has led an insurgency against the state since 1984.

Watch for: Both the PKK and its Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have denied any involvement in the event. Despite denying responsibility, such attacks attributed to the PKK have often led Turkish forces to increase cross-border military operations into areas controlled by the SDF in northern Syria. Further violence could influence the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2023, with support for incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan under threat if a further wave of attacks like those seen in 2015 persist across the country.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Nov. 18-25 

Nov. 18

  • Portuguese trade union Frente Comum national strike for public sector workers
  • Brazil’s new president visits Portugal

Nov. 19

  • Malaysia national elections
  • Black sea grain deal expiration date
  • Francophone summit in Djerba, Tunisia

Nov. 20 

  • Nepal general election
  • World Cup starts in Qatar
  • Kazakhstan presidential elections
  • Elections in Equatorial Guinea

Nov. 21

  • ASEAN defense ministers meeting 
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees sets new strike date
  • Angola invites presidents of DRC, Rwanda and Burundi to summit in Luanda

Nov. 22

  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits UK
  • Russia’s Putin visits Armenia 

Nov. 23

  • UK medium-term fiscal plan
  • Start of indefinite production strike in La Mojana, Colombia

Nov. 24

  • U.S. Thanksgiving
  • European Commission president visits Finland

Nov. 25

  • International day for elimination of violence against women

Nov. 26-Dec. 2  

Nov. 26 

  • Taiwan holds mayoral elections
  • Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov to visit Azerbaijan

Nov. 27

  • Shanghai Marathon

Nov. 28

  • EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels

Nov. 29

  • NATO foreign ministers meet in Bucharest 
  • Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit Japan
  • Twitter relaunches blue check subscription

Dec. 1

  • World AIDS Day
  • President Biden hosts French President Macron at White House
  • OSCE meets in Lodz, Poland

Dec. 3-9 

Dec. 5

  • Eurogroup meeting

Dec. 6

  • Runoff in Georgia Senate race
  • EU-Western Balkans summit

Dec. 10-16 

Dec. 13

  • Washington hosts U.S.-Africa summit

Dec. 14

  • EU-ASEAN Summit
  • Fijian House of Representatives election

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