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Forecast: Niger coup, Saudi Arabia hosts Ukraine peace talks, and typhoon lashes China and the Philippines

Volodymyr Zelenskyy stands in the foreground. Behind him is a man in well-kept official clothing. In the distance are hundreds of soldiers, out of focus.

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.

The Debrief: Violent protests first hit the Indian state of Manipur in May after a controversial court order allowing the state’s majority Meitei Hindu group to purchase historically protected land from the minority Kuki-Zo community. A lack of consistent reporting on the resulting conflict has led to a spread of misinformation which in turn has further fueled clashes. Read more in this month’s edition of the Debrief.

Week of August 4-11
A Look Ahead

Aug. 5 – Saudi Arabia hosts Ukraine peace talks 

Starting Saturday, Saudi Arabia has invited dozens of nations to take part in peace talks on Ukraine in an effort to broaden the coalition calling for an end to the conflict by including nations with traditional ties to Russia.

What’s happened so far 
Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost 18 months ago and there has been little progress to end the war. Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled he may be open to a peace plan, which comes with the caveat that Ukraine would have to accept “territorial realities” and cede occupied territories to Russia permanently. Russia is not invited to this stage of talks, with Saudi Arabia instead opting to build support for Ukraine’s position among developing nations and the Global South. Ukraine, in a position backed by its allies, has flatly rejected the idea of peace deals that give control of annexed regions to Russia.

The impact 
It’s unclear who will attend the talks, held over two days in the coastal city of Jeddah, but the invite list includes developing nations from the BRICS bloc, such as India and Brazil. This first stage of negotiations is expected to serve as a precursor to a possible peace summit scheduled for later this year.

Aug. 6 – ECOWAS threatens military action in Niger  

A bloc of 11 West African nations warned it will take “all measures necessary,” including use of force, if democracy is not restored in Niger by Sunday following last week’s military coup. 

What’s happened so far 
Mutinous soldiers in Niger’s presidential guard seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum last Wednesday, suspending the country’s constitution and closing its borders. In an emergency meeting Sunday, the West African trade bloc ECOWAS introduced a no-fly zone, imposed travel bans on key military figures and suspended trade with Niger. Western partners, including the U.K. and EU, also pulled humanitarian funding, while France announced it would begin evacuating its nationals from capital Niamey on Tuesday.

The impact 
Two other West African nations run by military juntas, Mali and Burkina Faso, said any military intervention by ECOWAS in Niger would be tantamount to declaring war on all three nations. The bloc’s defense ministers are expected to meet ahead of Sunday’s deadline to discuss the prospect of military action. Meanwhile, Niger’s coup leaders sought to solidify their nascent grip on power by arresting several members of Bazoum’s ousted government. Niger is also one of the world’s biggest producers of uranium and one of the main exporters of the product to Europe. 

Aug. 7 – President Biden visits Utah, Arizona and New Mexico 

Hoping to spotlight efforts to fight climate change, U.S. President Joe Biden plans to tour the Southwest starting Monday after a record-breaking heat wave.

What’s happened so far 
July was the hottest month in recorded history. Phoenix particularly bore the brunt with a 31-day streak of temperatures hitting at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit. During that streak, the Biden administration announced new protections for workers and steps to ease access to drinking water. Biden also took a shot at climate change deniers, saying they cannot deny the fact that extreme heat is having an impact on the country.

The impact 
Heat kills more people in the United States than any other extreme weather. As a candidate for office, Biden ran heavily on climate change with promises like a ban on federal oil and gas permits on public lands. However, his administration continued drilling on public lands, with permits only beginning to decline last year. This tour could help shore up some 2024 voters who care about climate change in a few of the states most affected by it.

Aug. 8 – Ohio special election  

Voters in Ohio will decide Tuesday on Issue One, a controversial ballot measure that would raise the threshold for constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60 percent.  

What’s happened so far 
Polling has been mixed, with a recent USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University poll showing 57 percent of voters against the measure, while an online Ohio Northern University poll showed a near even split. If approved, Ohio citizens would also face a higher bar for getting an amendment on the ballot in the first place, with signatures needed from at least 5 percent of voters in the most recent gubernatorial election in each of the state’s 88 counties, as opposed to the current requirement of 44.

The impact 
Outside spending on both sides has poured into the race, viewed by many as a “proxy war” over abortion rights, ahead of a November measure that would codify reproductive rights in the state’s constitution if approved.

Aug. 9 – Colombian taxi drivers’ strike over price of fuel  

Colombia’s national taxi drivers union has called for a strike Wednesday to protest rising fuel prices.

What’s happened so far 
The industrial action comes after failed negotiations in early July between the country’s transportation minister and taxi drivers, whose main demand is to be granted a special fare for gas amid a continued increase in fuel prices since October 2022. Among the union’s other demands are the outlaw of private app-based taxi services and the increase of public taxi fares. 

The impact 
Colombian government officials committed to revising taxi fares but ruled out the possibility of special gas prices for taxi services providers due to a deficit of more than $7.6 million USD in the national fund for stabilization of fuel prices. Taxi drivers across the country are expected to join the industrial action, with higher participation in big cities.

Aug. 10 – Cambodian PM begins to hand over power to son  

Hun Manet, son of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, will get royal approval to replace his dad on Thursday, just weeks after their party won the general elections by a landslide.

What’s happened so far 
Hun Sen announced he would end his near four-decade reign and hand over power to his son last month, just days after winning almost all parliamentary seats in a general election marked by the suppression of all meaningful opposition.

The impact 
During his announcement, the current prime minister explained it was time to fill the new cabinet with young people, including sons of other top officials. However, Hun Sen said he will continue to head the ruling party and be a member of the National Assembly. Hun Manet, who is a four-star general and the chief of the Army, is expected to be sworn in Aug. 22.

Aug. 10 – Former PM Shinawatra plans to return to Thailand 

Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is set to return to the country Thursday after 15 years of a self-imposed exile, according to his daughter.

What’s happened so far 
Thaksin served as Thailand’s prime minister from 2001 until he was overthrown in a military coup in September 2006. As a result, his populist Thai Rak Thai Party was outlawed and, barred from political activity, he eventually left Thailand two years later. Thaksin’s party has since been represented in government through Pheu Thai, with his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra as a senior member. The party came second in the latest elections, losing to the progressive Move Forward Party.

The impact 
The former prime minister faces up to 10 years of jail after he fled from court charges, which he claims were politically motivated and pushed by the military government. Thailand has been in a political deadlock since the May elections as the military-appointed upper house Senate continues to stall the top two parties. Analysts believe the former prime minister’s return is perhaps a sign that the Thaksin-loyal Pheu Thai party has found a way to give in to some military concessions, even if it means severing ties with the Move Forward party, in order to consolidate power.

What Else Matters

Heavy flooding was reported last week in Fuzhou, China, pictured above, as Typhoon Doksuri traveled through the area. (Photo: China News Service / Wikimedia Commons)

Typhoon Doksuri 

A typhoon left dozens of people dead across China and the Philippines in late July, displacing hundreds of thousands and affecting millions along its path. Doksuri, also known as Egay in the Philippines, first formed in the Philippine Sea east of southern Luzon, before strengthening into a super typhoon and making landfall on two islands in the Philippines’ Cagayan province. The storm killed 50 people in the Philippines, including 27 people on an overloaded passenger boat that capsized in Binangonan. Despite weakening slightly over the Luzon Strait, Doksuri continued to cause destruction after making landfall in China’s Fujian province, displacing half a million people and damaging thousands of homes in that province alone. China reported at least 20 people died in incidents related to the storm as of Aug. 1, which brought record-breaking rains to the country’s capital Beijing.

Watch for: Areas affected by Doksuri will need time to recover and will likely remain vulnerable to extreme weather through the remainder of the typhoon season, which generally peaks in August and September in the Western Pacific. Khanun, a newly formed storm, is expected to be the third typhoon to hit China in three weeks, after passing through Japan’s southern Okinawa islands. Asia is experiencing one of its most deadly monsoon seasons, with this year’s death toll now in the hundreds across the continent. 

Fitch downgrades U.S. credit rating 

Citing “a steady deterioration in standards of governance,” and a “high and growing general government debt burden,” Fitch announced Tuesday it has downgraded the U.S. sovereign credit grade from AAA to AA+. The White House said it “strongly disagreed” with the decision and that it “defies reality,” amid a strong post-pandemic economic recovery, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called it “arbitrary and based on outdated data.”

Watch for: Most analysts don’t expect the downgrade to have a significant impact, but some have warned it could raise the country’s borrowing costs at a time when interest rates are at their highest in more than 20 years. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped more than 2 percent on Wednesday in its worst day since February, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 350 points.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Aug. 4-11

Aug. 5

  • Pride in Montana
  • Saudi Arabia hosts Ukraine peace talk

Aug. 6

  • African nations threaten military intervention in Niger

Aug. 7

  • President Biden will visit Utah, Arizona and New Mexico 

Aug. 8

  • Voting in Ohio special election begins

Aug. 9

  • Colombian taxi drivers’ strike over price of fuel

Aug. 10

  • Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra plans return to Thailand 
  • Cambodian PM Hun Sen begins to hand over power to son

Aug. 12-18 

Aug. 12

  • U.S. National Book Festival

Aug. 14

  • Trial date for Trump in Florida documents case

Aug. 18

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

Aug. 19-25 

Aug. 20 

  • Guatemala election runoff
  • Ecuador elections

Aug. 23 

  • First debate for U.S. Republican presidential primary

Aug. 26-Sept. 1 

Aug. 26 

  • Gabon elections

Aug. 27

  • Final results of CAR constitutional referendum

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