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Forecast: Gaza-Israel war intensifies, France unions plan new strikes, and Guatemala celebrates Revolution Day

Dozens of protestors gather on a street lined with French road signs. A few of the protestors are carrying road flares. They are numerous, but not crowded.

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.

Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israelis last weekend and Israel’s ongoing retaliation in Gaza has left a combined toll of more than 2,300 people killed and thousands more injured. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Agnese Boffano discuss how the first 24 hours played out last weekend. Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of October 13-20
A Look Ahead

Oct. 13 – French unions call new strike

France’s major trade unions have called for a day of strike action on Friday, the first in several months, to signal their continual opposition to the government’s pension reform initiative and call for pay rises.

What’s happened so far 
France’s largest union, the CGT, is seeking to open wage negotiations with the government, as it says inflation is outstripping wage growth and eroding workers’ purchasing power. Rail traffic is expected to be disrupted across long-distance TER services and the Paris metro system. Doctors and education staff are also expected to strike, although the scale of their action is not yet clear. Around 40 percent of flights have been preemptively canceled at Paris’ Orly airport as air traffic control workers are also striking.

The impact 
Friday’s strike will take place three days before a conference called by President Emmanuel Macron to discuss low wages, while Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is expected to meet with unions in the lead up to the event. As with previous strike days across France, large demonstrations are likely in most major cities. Tourists traveling to France for the Rugby World Cup matches on Saturday could also see their travel plans disrupted.

Oct. 14 – New Zealand general elections  

New Zealand will hold its general elections Saturday as the country sees a growing populist wave just three years after electing a largely progressive government. 

What’s happened so far 
Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led her Labour Party to a historic landslide win in the 2020 election, giving her a rare parliamentary majority. Ardern stood down in February of this year, saying “she no longer had enough in the tank” to do the job and was succeeded by Chris Hipkins after he was the only person nominated to replace her. He is now seeking his own mandate at a time when voters appear to be souring on his party, opening up the ground for other parties and talk of a return to coalition governments.

The impact 
Early voting began on Oct. 2 and extends through Saturday’s election day, where polls will be open across the country from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The country’s electoral system is based on a form of proportional representation known as Mixed Member Proportional in which some MPs are directly voted in by electorate areas and some chosen from party lists based on vote share. Opinion polls have consistently shown no party gaining a clear majority.

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Oct. 14 – Australia referendum  

On Saturday, Australians will vote on a proposed change to the country’s constitution that will include an Indigenous voice in parliament, the first such mention in the constitution. 

What’s happened so far 
In August, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced a referendum vote regarding a change in the constitution that will effectively give almost a million Indigenous people a say in parliament. The change would set up an advisory parliamentary group of solely Indigenous and aboriginal people that would bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights and issues directly to ministers. For it to pass, more than half of the country has to vote in favor with a majority in four of the six states. While polls initially indicated strong support for the vote, there has been a decline over the past year, suggesting it is likely to fail

The impact 
If accepted, the referendum vote would be seen as a watershed moment for Indigenous people. But many, including Indigenous leaders and activists, say the proposed change is not enough, as the parliamentary group would not have veto powers. Critics say it would have little effect on Indigenous lives. Politically, a win would cement Albanese’s prime ministership and may pave the way toward a possible referendum on the institution of a republic, but a no verdict could decrease his chances in future elections.

Oct. 15 – Polish parliamentary polls  

Poland will hold one of the most closely watched elections in Europe this year on Sunday to elect a new parliament.

What’s happened so far 
The Law and Justice (PiS) party, the dominant political force in the country led by Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, is seeking an historic third term in power while facing a strong challenge from former European Council President Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition. Despite Tusk attracting large crowds during his campaign, polls suggest the ruling party is still ahead on the vote, though it is unclear if it will manage to win an outright majority.

The impact 
The opposition coalition has pledged to undo controversial changes to the judiciary system if elected, as well as improve the fragile relationship with Germany, which has been damaged by the current government. Western countries are following these elections closely amid the current rule-of-law dispute with the European Union, with some critics worried that a PiS third term would mean a complete crackdown on the judiciary independence, media freedom and democratic institutions.

Oct. 15 – Ecuador runoffs  

The second round of Ecuador’s presidential election (members’ link) will take place Sunday after a months-long campaign marked by violence.

What’s happened so far 
Luisa González, candidate of former President Rafael Correa’s left-wing Citizen Revolution Movement party, and Daniel Noboa, candidate of the conservative National Democratic Action party, will face off for Ecuador’s presidency. The vote will take place amid unprecedented rates of crime and after a campaign marked by violence, including the assassination of candidate Fernando Villavicencio (members’ link) and two other political figures. Other issues like economic recovery after the pandemic and the loss of employment and businesses are also among the main worries of Ecuadoreans.

The impact 
The outcome of this election will define the immediate future of the country with two very different proposals to tackle the current challenges posed by widespread gang violence, crime and unemployment. While González has advocated for a “social-justice” approach centered on the expansion of the welfare state and the fight against corruption inside the country’s institutions, Noboa seeks to attract the business sector with the promise of tax benefits and exemptions for companies as well as the reinforcement of the judiciary and prisons systems.

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Oct. 20 – Japan’s parliament to convene extraordinary session  

Japan’s Diet will convene Friday for an extraordinary session, their first since a cabinet reshuffle last month. 

What’s happened so far 
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida debuted a new cabinet line-up mid-September amid low approval ratings, including a new pro-Taiwan defense minister and the country’s first female foreign minister since 2002. 

The impact 
Kishida announced he will be aiming to pass a supplementary budget for a new economic package in the upcoming extraordinary session, making a snap election unlikely despite speculation among lawmakers that Kishida might dissolve the legislature early. 

Oct. 20 – Revolution Day in Guatemala  

Protests in favor of President-elect Bernardo Arévalo in Guatemala will likely ramp up next Friday as the country celebrates the movement that led to the election of his father.

What’s happened so far 
In October 1944, Guatemalan students forced out a junta, kicking off the “October Revolution.” Juan Arévalo won the presidential race the following year in what’s been described as the country’s first free and fair election. Now, the country is seeing widespread road blockades and other protests in support of Arévalo’s son who won an election but has run into several attempts to keep him from taking office. Protesters are calling for the resignation of Attorney General Maria Porras, labeled by the United States as corrupt, after they say she has tried to block Arévalo from taking office. Porras, however, is still in power and President Alejandro Giammattei has not made any effort to remove her. He even said he’d arrest the protest leaders.

The impact 
As long as officials in the Guatemalan government continue their fight against Arévalo, there will be protests from the citizens who overwhelmingly voted for him as well as condemnation from the international community. Protesters will also likely keep blocking roads and holding mass gatherings until Arévalo is assured his elected position.

What Else Matters

The shell of a two-story building with massive amounts of damage from fire and explosion. There is a burned out car in front of the building. The street is full of water.
The police station in Sderot, Israel, was destroyed by Hamas airstrikes. (Photo: Yoav Keren / Wikimedia Commons)

Gaza-Israel war 

In the early hours of Oct. 7, air raid sirens sounded across much of Israel, including Tel Aviv, after a series of rockets were fired from Gaza. Approximately an hour later, the sirens were followed by an incursion from armed Palestinians by air, land and sea from Gaza into Israeli territory, during which mostly Hamas militants took over checkpoints, military bases, police stations and settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military, which has imposed a blockade on Gaza for more than 15 years, quickly responded by launching air strikes on the Palestinian enclave. The conflict expanded on the northern border with Lebanon following a series of strikes and counter-strikes on Hezbollah observation posts.

Watch for: The death toll following this unprecedented Hamas offensive and severe response on Gaza has been the most significant in the more than seven-decade conflict, with more than 1,300 people reported killed in Israel and at least another 1,350 in Gaza. Hundreds of thousands of reservists have been mobilized by the Israeli military amid enhanced security and strict curfews across the country, with analysts suggesting Israel is preparing itself for a ground invasion of Gaza. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon has threatened to invade from its southern border if Israel crosses into the Palestinian territory, as this war comes closer to developing into a region-wide conflict involving major regional players including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Afghanistan earthquakes

More than 2,400 people died when two shallow earthquakes hit northeast Herat, Afghanistan, just thirty minutes apart on Oct. 7, marking the deadliest earthquake in the country in decades. Days later, on Oct. 11, a third magnitude 6.3 quake followed in the same region, killing at least one person and injuring some 150 others, according to Afghan media. The human toll was exacerbated as many people had been taking shelter in tents among the ruins of flattened villages when it struck. Local rescuers reported using their bare hands to pull out relatives, dead or alive, due to a lack of professional equipment.

Watch for: With hundreds of people presumed missing, the Taliban administration is in need of urgent aid but grapples with the consequences of isolating the country with its domestic policies. As winter approaches, thousands of families are without homes and the window for the arrival of effective aid is fast shrinking. Residents say medical aid is in short supply, with the WHO echoing their concerns, and the UN says thousands of people have lost all their belongings, including the means to stay warm or feed themselves. The post-earthquake scenario is expected to compound Afghanistan’s war-driven complex humanitarian disasterFew countries have publicly offered support as much of the world looks on the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Oct. 13-20 

Oct. 13

  • French unions call new strike

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

Oct. 20

  • African football league starts
  • Pan American Games begin in Santiago, Chile
  • Japan parliament extraordinary session
  • Revolution Day in Guatemala

Oct. 21-27 

Oct. 21 

  • Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan

Oct. 22 

  • Swiss parliamentary elections
  • Argentina general elections
  • Venezuela opposition primaries

Oct. 28-Nov. 3

Oct. 29 

  • Turkey centennial
  • Regional elections in Valle del Cauca, Colombia

Oct. 30

  • Philippines local elections

Nov. 4-10 

Nov. 4

  • Mexico City’s Day of the Dead Parade

Nov. 6 

  • Iraq provincial election

Nov. 7

  • Gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi

Nov. 9

  •     First round Madagascar presidential election

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Top photo: Protesters gather in Chambéry, France, during strike actions in January 2023. (Photo: Jean-Baptiste Truffart / Flickr)

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