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Forecast: France pulls troops from Niger, U.S. government faces possible shutdown, and Mediterranean leaders hold summit

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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.

France announced this week that it is withdrawing its troops stationed in Niger. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Sophie Perryer discuss how Nigeriens have reacted and why the move may help Russia make further inroads in the region. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of September 29-October 6
A Look Ahead

Sept. 29 – MED9 Leaders’ summit  

Leaders from the European Union’s nine states on the Mediterranean will meet in Valletta, Malta, on Friday for the annual MED9 Leaders’ summit. 

What’s happened so far 
The summit comes amid a cascading series of crises in the region, including catastrophic storms and headline-grabbing upticks in migration with thousands of migrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The MED9’s European affairs ministers already met in Valletta earlier this month, and their energy ministers met there in May

The impact 
While the ministers will likely devote more time and resources to the climate and migration issues than last year with the Russian invasion of Ukraine less pressing, there are no indications that they are planning any specific deliverables aside from the regular statement. It remains unlikely that an increasingly-boisterous Turkey — the EU’s ever-mercurial partner in migration policy who was directly accused of “unilateral actions and provocative statements” in last year’s statement and who condemned the statements of the two years prior — will approve of the summit’s outcome.

Sept. 30 – Parliamentary elections in Slovakia 

Slovaks will vote Saturday to elect a new legislature after cycling through four prime ministers in the last five years.

What’s happened so far 
Slovakia’s government functions as a parliamentary republic, where a weak president is elected every five years, in conjunction with a powerful 150-seat National Council and prime minister chosen at least every four years. Zuzana Čaputová has held the presidency since 2019, but will not run again, while the parliament has seen three governments cycle in and out since the last election in 2020. The 2020 election saw the anti-establishment Ordinary People and Independent Personalities party form a conservative government headed by Igor Matovic, who resigned in 2021 amid scandal surrounding a deal for coronavirus vaccines with Russia. Čaputová then appointed a series of unelected caretaker governments over three years until early elections. 

The impact 
Polling indicates that three-time former Prime Minister Robert Fico and his populist Smer party will likely win the most seats. Fico resigned from the prime ministership in 2018 following the murder of an investigative journalist that exposed ties between Fico and the Calabrian mafia. Major gains are also expected for the liberal Progressive Slovakia party, which is polling within a couple points of Smer. Crucially, Fico has campaigned on withdrawing support for Ukraine and no longer enforcing sanctions on Russia. Smer’s ability to implement these policies would depend largely on if they are able to form a coalition with Euro-skeptic far-right parties. Nevertheless, Fico’s return to power would be an alarming development for Kyiv.

Sept. 30 – U.S. government funding deadline

U.S. Congress and the Biden administration have until Saturday night to reach an agreement on next year’s budget and avoid the first government shutdown since late December 2018

What’s happened so far 
With Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has encountered staunch resistance from GOP hardliners that want significant spending cuts in exchange for their vote on a budget deal. If the Senate ultimately passes a bipartisan stopgap funding measure, McCarthy could be forced to decide whether to bring the bill to the floor and risk a challenge to his speakership, or allow a shutdown to move forward. 

The impact 
If no deal is reached, millions of federal employees would not receive paychecks, though essential workers would still be required to report to their jobs, while nearly 7 million people who receive food assistance through the WIC program would lose access to that help.

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Oct. 1 – Dominican Republic primaries for 2024 elections

Dominican President Luis Abinader will take the next step toward reelection Sunday with a large turnout expected for the ruling party’s primaries for next year’s vote

What’s happened so far 
Abinader was elected president in 2020, ending the 16-year rule of the Dominican Liberation Party. His Modern Revolutionary Party also won a majority of seats in the Senate and more seats than any other party in the Chamber of Deputies. Abinader, a former businessman with ties to the tourism industry, maintains a high approval rating in the country despite being accused of tax evasion in the Pandora Papers. Recent polls show him holding a significant lead over the two other main candidates. 

The impact 
One of Abinader’s main policies has been cracking down on Haitian immigration into the country. He’s expelled thousands of Haitians from the country. Recently, he ordered the border be closed due to a conflict over the construction of a canal. His administration is also in building a border wall. If Abinader is overwhelmingly put into power again, he is likely to continue making anti-Haitian decrees.

Oct. 1 – First Argentina elections debate

Following a shock win for a far-right candidate in last month’s primaries, Argentina will hold the first of its elections debates Sunday.

What’s happened so far
Far-right libertarian economist Javier Milei won the biggest share of votes in Argentina’s primary elections in August in a surprise win. The results pointed toward disillusionment with Argentina’s establishment political parties as the country continues to face an economic crisis, with high rates of poverty and rising inflation.

The impact 
The results of one debate are unlikely to provide too much new information on the outcome of the upcoming Oct. 22 general elections, but if Milei continues to perform well, as he appears to be online, Argentina could be in for radical change, with the abolishment of the country’s central bank and the elimination of entire government ministries among Milei’s more extreme proposals.

Oct. 4 – London Underground workers strike  

Unionized London Underground workers plan to walk out Wednesday amid an ongoing row over job security.

What’s happened so far  
The upcoming strike action will be the first of the month called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) over job losses. RMT has raised concerns over planned staff cuts and worsening working conditions amid cuts in Transport for London (TfL) budget. TfL officials urged the union to call off the strike, claiming there’s an ongoing open discussion on the workers’ concerns.

The impact 
The strike, involving some 3,500 RMT affiliates, is expected to impact commuters across England’s capital with some stations likely to be closed on the day. A second walkout has been announced for Oct. 6, coinciding with the one called by Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, which will significantly impact broader rail services across the country. 

Oct. 5 – 3rd European Political Community Summit 

The European Political Community will hold its third summit Thursday in Spain.

What’s happened so far
The political community was initially formed last year in the wake of Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron first pitched the idea as a way to include countries outside of the European Union in strategic discussions about the fallout from the invasion. 

The impact 
This summit will take place in the backdrop of Azerbaijan’s military operation that effectively collapsed the Armenia-backed Republic of Artsakh in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last week. The most recent European Political Community summit resulted in the establishment of a civilian EU mission along the Armenian border with Azerbaijan, and the conflict and ongoing flow of refugees to Armenia will likely factor prominently in discussions in Spain.

Oct. 5 – NBA preseason tips off  

The National Basketball Association will begin preseason games Thursday.

What’s happened so far 
For the second consecutive year, the NBA will hold its first preseason games in the Arabian Gulf with the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves facing off in Abu Dhabi. The preseason slate will precede the tip off of the NBA regular season, which begins a few weeks later on Oct. 24. 

The impact 
The NBA’s decision to play games for the second consecutive year in the United Arab Emirates represents the league’s growing global appeal. It also, however, furthers the trend of the NBA choosing to closely engage with despotic regimes abroad, most notably with China, that has in the past resulted in controversy.

What Else Matters

People board a jet with French markings using a ramp on a runway
France evacuated its nationals from Niger in early August following a military coup the previous month. (Photo: French Foreign Ministry)

Canada-India tensions 

India suspended the issuance of visas to Canadians in response to an accusation by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that India’s government may have been involved in the targeted killing of a prominent Sikh activist in Surrey, British Columbia, in June. Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat on the back of “credible” intelligence gathered with help from the United States, while India’s government completely denied the allegations.

Watch for: India’s foreign minister Tuesday appeared to backtrack on his government’s initial defiance, saying the country is open to examining specific information about the killing. India classifies Sikh activists as terrorists for seeking secession in a northern region they call Khalistan. This week, India and the United States are co-hosting a meeting of 30 army leaders in New Delhi that includes Canada, the first official meeting between the two sides in the wake of the public dispute. U.S. President Joe Biden reportedly raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit earlier this month. The meeting brings together officials from both sides of the Pacific amid heightened tension between the U.S. and China over trade and territory in the East China and South China seas.

French military withdrawal from Niger 

French President Emmanuel Macron announced Sunday that 1,500 French troops currently stationed in Niger will leave the country by the end of the year, a move that will further weaken the West’s influence and contribution to counter-insurgency operations in West Africa. The French ambassador was also recalled following repeated requests by Niger’s junta, an apparent acquiescence to the coup leaders after France’s previous refusal to recognize their authority. The announcement came several hours after Niger’s military government banned French commercial and military aircraft from flying through the country’s airspace.

Watch for: Macron said French military cooperation with Niger was “over” but did not clarify whether troops stationed there would remain in the Sahel region in support of the counter-insurgency force. France previously had troops stationed in Mali and Burkina Faso but was forced to withdraw them after military coups in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Around 1,000 U.S. troops are still present in Niger. Their longterm role is not clear, although they have not been asked to leave by the junta. Research from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that in the first month of the Nigerien junta’s rule, political violence rose by 42 percent compared to the previous month, driven by ongoing activity by insurgent groups including the Islamic State and JNIM.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Sept. 29-Oct. 6

Sept. 29

  • MED9 leaders’ summit in Malta

Sept. 30

  • Slovak parliamentary election
  • Maldives election runoff

Oct. 1 

  • New fiscal year for U.S. government
  • First Argentina elections debate
  • Dominican Republic primaries for 2024 election

Oct. 3

  • Provincial election in Manitoba, Canada

Oct. 4

  • London Underground workers strike

Oct. 5

  • 3rd European Political Community Summit
  • NBA preseason tips off 

Oct. 7-13 

Oct. 7

  • Mexican Navy takes over operations of Mexico City International Airport

Oct. 8

  • Luxembourg general election

Oct. 10

  • Liberia election
  • Venezuela’s opposition primaries

Oct. 11

  • Mozambique local elections

Oct. 14-20 

Oct. 14

  • New Zealand elections
  • Annular solar eclipse across North, Central and South America
  • Voice referendum in Australia

Oct. 15 

  • Ecuador runoff election
  • Poland parliamentary elections
  • International Olympic Committee session in Mumbai

Oct. 20

  • African football league starts
  • Pan American Games begin in Santiago, Chile

Oct. 21-27 

Oct. 21 

  • Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan

Oct. 22 

  • Swiss parliamentary elections
  • Argentina general elections

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