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Forecast: Coup continues in Niger, Spanish Parliament convenes, and U.S., Japan and South Korea hold summit

Pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, as part of an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. (Photo: Flickr / Blink O'fanaye)

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.

Week of August 4-11
A Look Ahead

Aug. 11 – Hearing on Trump’s election subversion case

Former President Donald Trump’s legal team will be back before a judge on Friday on charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

What’s happened so far 
Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted Trump on arguably the most serious charges of the dozens that he currently faces, with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstructing an official proceeding punishable by up to 20 years in prison each. The indictment alleges Trump spread lies about election fraud despite knowing those claims were false. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith said those lies led to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The impact 
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan scheduled the hearing on the scope of a protective order for Friday, going against the wishes of Trump’s legal team. Trump and his followers have attacked the Obama appointee for her perceived bias against the former president, which has led to an increase in security for her. If Chutkan does intend to have a speedy trial, Trump may be forced to defend himself in court while campaigning to return to the White House.

Aug. 12 – Malaysia to hold state polls  

On Saturday, voters will elect representatives for 245 state assembly seats across the Malaysian states of Selangor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Penang.

What’s happened so far 
A contentious general election, weighed down by an ongoing political crisis, last November left opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim with the largest number of seats, but still well short of the 112 needed for a majority. The Pakatan Harapan coalition, or Alliance of Hope, deposed the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in 2018 in the country’s first change of government since independence. Ibrahim formed a unity government following further negotiations in November, giving him a two-thirds majority in the country’s parliament, which was tested in a confidence vote that he won in December 2022.
The impact 
The vote is seen by many as a key test for Malaysia’s ruling coalition and its leader who says the country must change if it hopes to survive.

Aug. 12 – Polish Army Day celebrations begin

On Saturday, Poland’s armed forces will begin a series of celebrations that will culminate in a national holiday on Aug. 15 commemorating the 1920 victory over Soviet Russia.

What’s happened so far 
The military parade will take place for the first time since 2018, following postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The celebrations are usually marked by marches and picnics across the country, ending with a large-scale military parade across the capital Warsaw. Poland’s defense ministry had previously announced on the eve of the country’s independence day that it planned to more than double its security budget in 2023.
The impact 
Poland’s defense ministry announced that it would showcase its “cutting-edge military equipment” in the upcoming military parade. Analysts believe it will feature the largest set of weaponry since the late 1980s, with some speculating the defense ministry will display newly acquired systems like HIMARS and Leopard-2 tanks. Poland has been a staunch ally of Ukraine and a supporter for further militarization due to concerns around Russia’s continuing expansion in the area and threat of the war crossing the border into NATO territory.

Aug. 13 – Argentina primaries  

On Sunday, Argentinians will vote in the country’s primaries ahead of the general election on Oct. 22. 

What’s happened so far 
Incumbent President Alberto Fernández announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection after a tumultuous political period saw discontent grow nationally due to the country’s deepening economic crisis and within the ruling Peronist Justicialist Party. On Sunday, voters will narrow down their presidential candidates, as well as vote on open seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Leading the early polls is the center-right opposition coalition Juntos Por El Cambio, followed by the populist Peronist-backed Unión Por La Patria, likely led by current economic minister Sergio Massa, as well as far-right and radical libertarian candidate Javier Milei.
The impact 
With the general elections and a run-off second round looming in the coming months, the primaries are a solid, but not certain, indicator on who will be running the country for the next four years. The historically dominant Peronist party and its many factions suffered a strong defeat in 2021’s legislative elections, directly leading to their loss of a majority in the Senate for the first time in decades. The primaries will also showcase in which direction the opposition’s campaign focuses, depending on the results of the tight race internally between more center-right Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta and former defense minister Patricia Bullrich. Economic and inflationary woes will undoubtedly be at the top of the campaigns, even after recent negotiations with the IMF resulted in an additional $7.5 billion loan, providing some respite. 

Aug. 14 – Alabama congressional map hearing  

A panel of three federal judges will hear arguments Monday on the latest proposed congressional maps for Alabama submitted by lawmakers. 

What’s happened so far 
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that ordered state lawmakers to redraw the maps to create two districts in which “Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close.” In the special session that followed, the legislature approved new maps with just one majority-Black district and a second with around 40 percent in apparent defiance of the court mandate
The impact 
Democrats are hopeful the creation of a second majority-Black district in Alabama, and the potential that similar rulings would force other states like Louisiana to redraw their maps, would be a boost in their efforts to flip control of the House in 2024. Officials have said new maps for Alabama must be in place by Oct. 1 to prepare for next year’s elections.

Aug. 17 – Spanish Parliament meets following general election  

Spanish Parliament will be convened on Thursday in order to start the process of appointing a new government.

What’s happened so far 
The conservative Partido Popular (PP) won 136 seats in parliament during the July 23 elections, followed by progressive Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) with 122. A new president of the lower chamber will relay the composition of the parliament to King Felipe VI, who will then summon representatives of the different parties to a consultation round. Following consultations, the king will propose a candidate to be appointed prime minister. If the proposed candidate fails to obtain the necessary votes from lawmakers to become prime minister, the vote will be repeated in the following 48 hours, in which case obtaining a simple majority will suffice. If the candidate fails to gain enough support after two parliamentary votes, the king will propose a new candidate and the same process will take place again. 
The impact 
After the outcome of the general election and as negotiations among parties, there are two likely scenarios. The king could ask PP’s Alberto Nuñez Feijoo to try to form a government first, but the formation of an alliance with enough support from the chamber is unlikely given that their potential allies – far-right party Vox and conservative Navarre nationalist party UPN – did not win enough seats to make up for the necessary majority. If PSOE’s incumbent Pedro Sánchez is instead tasked with forming a government, he could succeed in the simple majority vote with the support of progressive, Catalan and Basque nationalist parties, which would add up to 172 votes – but only if Junts per Catalunya abstains from the vote. If none of the candidates proposed by the king manage to form a government in two months, the parliament will be dissolved and general elections will be held again.

Aug. 18 – Japan, U.S. and South Korea summit in Maryland 

Japanese and South Korean leaders will travel to the United States next Friday to meet with President Joe Biden. 

What’s happened so far 
Biden invited South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the meeting during the G7 Summit in Japan back in May. The summit will take place at Camp David in Maryland, where the leaders are expected to discuss expanding cooperation across the Indo-Pacific, including addressing the threat posed by North Korea, and to strengthen ties with ASEAN and the Pacific Islands, the White House said.
The impact 
The meeting comes as the Biden administration aims to strengthen its relationship with the two Asian nations as they all share the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program and China’s growth. The three countries have never held a formal summit, with Japan and South Korea recently working to improve their relationship after years of tensions. South Korean officials have said the meeting will be an opportunity to elevate cooperation among the three countries “to a new level.”

What Else Matters

Niger's General Abdourahamane Tchiani was declared as the country's new leader on July 28 following a military coup. (Photo: Niger state TV)
Niger’s General Abdourahamane Tchiani was declared as the country’s new leader on July 28 following a military coup. (Photo: Niger state TV)

Niger coup 

The threat of a regional military intervention hangs over the West African nation of Niger following a July 26 military coup that unseated the country’s first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1960. The West African regional bloc ECOWAS is expected to decide Thursday on whether to send in troops, after Niger’s junta missed an Aug. 6 deadline to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. In defiance of ECOWAS’ demands, Niger’s military leadership ordered the indefinite closure of the country’s airspace and refused to allow a joint ECOWAS, UN and African Union delegation to enter, citing security concerns.

Watch for: Military intervention by ECOWAS would further destabilize Niger and likely trigger a regional crisis as Mali and Burkina Faso, both ECOWAS members, have pledged to break with the bloc and support Niger if required. The financial implications of the coup are also becoming increasingly evident, after Niger missed a $3.8 million treasury bond repayment on Tuesday and is suffering rolling blackouts as economic sanctions impact its power supply from neighboring Nigeria. The U.S. is growing concerned over potential Russian involvement in Niger, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning Wagner mercenary forces, who are known to be present in neighboring Mali, have tried to take advantage of the instability created by the coup.

South China Sea tensions 

A recent standoff between Philippine supply ships and the Chinese Coast Guard has spiked tensions in the oft-disputed South China Sea. The Philippine military claims a Chinese Coast Guard ship fired a water cannon toward Philippine navy-chartered civilian vessels on a resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal on Aug. 5. The shoal is the site of a dilapidated warship that the Philippines deliberately grounded in 1999 to reinforce its sovereignty claims to the Spratly Islands, and it remains manned by a small number of Philippine soldiers. China, which also considers the reef part of its territory, maintains the Philippines’ occupation of the shoal is illegal and has repeatedly demanded that Manila tow away the military vessel.

Watch for: While a 2016 international tribunal ruled there was “no evidence” that China historically exercised exclusive control over its claimed portions of the South China Sea, Beijing has continued to refuse to recognize the decision, increasing its presence in the region since. The United States, European Union, Australia and Japan expressed support for the Philippines and concern over China’s actions, with Washington in particular reaffirming its commitment to a 1951 mutual defense treaty with the Philippines. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Aug. 11-18 

Aug. 11

  • Hearing on Trump’s election subversion case

Aug. 12

  • U.S. National Book Festival
  • Malaysia to hold state polls
  • Polish Army Day celebrations begin

Aug. 13

  • Argentina primaries

Aug. 14

  • Hearing on Alabama congressional maps

Aug. 17

  • Spain Parliament convenes to form government 

Aug. 18

  • Japan, United States, South Korea planning to hold summit

Aug. 19-25 

Aug. 20 

  • Guatemala election runoff
  • Ecuador elections

Aug. 22

  • BRICS summit

Aug. 23 

  • First debate for U.S. Republican presidential primary
  • India’s Chandrayaan-3 Mission expected to land on moon
  • Zimbabwe elections

Aug. 26-Sept. 1 

Aug. 26 

  • Gabon elections

Aug. 27

  • Final results of CAR constitutional referendum

Sept. 2-8 

Sept. 3 

  • Start of electoral campaign in Argentina

Sept. 6 

  • Announcement of MORENA party presidential candidate in Mexico

Sept. 8

  • Rugby World Cup in France

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