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Forecast: Israel-Hamas war fuels fears of regional spillover, Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan, and U.S. and EU hold summit

Nawaz Sharif is on a balcony overlooking a large crowd in a city with low buildings.

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.

Concerns about regional spillover due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war were heightened this week after an explosion at the Gaza Strip’s Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital killed at least 471 people on Tuesday. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Agnese Boffano discuss the new protests sparked this week and the current threats to the Arab world’s relationship with Israel.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.


Week of Oct. 20-27
A Look Ahead

Oct. 20 – US-EU Summit  

U.S. President Joe Biden will host European Council head Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

What’s happened so far 
The meeting will mark the second between the leaders since Biden took office. In a joint statement, Washington and Brussels said they are set to discuss continued support for Ukraine as well as shared economic efforts and climate change.

The impact 
At the top of the agenda will likely be ongoing negotiations to avert the reimposition of Trump-era tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports. Though the tariffs were paused two years ago, a comprehensive solution remains elusive as the two sides seek an agreement by January. Reports indicate that they may agree to another two-year pause on the tariffs in the event that a comprehensive settlement is out of reach. 


Oct. 20 – Pan Am Games open in Santiago 

More than 6,800 athletes representing 41 countries across the Americas will compete in the Pan American Games starting Friday in the Chilean capital of Santiago.

What’s happened so far 
South America’s largest multi-sport event is held every four years, and serves as a direct qualifier for the Olympics in 20 sports. More than 3,000 security officers are expected to work the 17-day competition, with the Chilean government estimating 1.1 million spectators will visit the various venues, including around 90,000 tourists.

The impact 
The event is forecast to add more than $900 million USD to the country’s GDP, according to a recent study. After the games, the Athletes’ Village in Santiago’s Cerrillos community will be repurposed into housing for low-and-middle class families. 


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Oct. 21 – Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan  

Head of Pakistan’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will return to the country on Saturday, ending his over four-year self-imposed exile ahead of a tumultuous election season.

What’s happened so far 
Sharif was disqualified from running for office in 2017 after being convicted of corruption and ousted as prime minister. He was later declared a fugitive from justice when he refused to return home after seeking medical treatment abroad. The end of his self-imposed exile was made possible by a June 2023 bill that reduced lawmakers’ disqualification period to five years with retrospective effect.

The impact 
Whether or not Sharif will face any charges for his previous convictions remains to be seen. Expected to lead his party’s campaign in the general election, he will return to a very polarized political landscape, with his party facing criticism over decisions made by his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif during his stint as prime minister following the ouster of Imran Khan.


Oct. 22 – Venezuela opposition primaries  

Venezuela’s opposition parties will hold primaries on Sunday ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.

What’s happened so far 
The primaries take place after the Venezuelan government and opposition signed an agreement to celebrate democratic elections in 2024 following a years-long power struggle and a subsequent deep socioeconomic crisis in the country. As part of the agreement, the U.S. has lifted some sanctions on Venezuela’s vital oil and gas industries. The upcoming vote has ignited reconciliation efforts amongst opposition parties after months of internal divisions in the Venezuelan dissidence

The impact 
The primaries will choose a unity opposition leader among the 12 candidates running with the goal of facing current President Nicolás Maduro in next year’s presidential elections. Opposition candidate María Corina Machado leads the race despite a disqualification sentence that bans her from holding public office, issued by regime authorities in 2015 and renewed earlier this year. The newly signed agreement does not specify if disqualification of opposition candidates will be withdrawn. Polling stations will be available nationwide and abroad Sunday. 


Oct. 22 – Swiss parliamentary elections  

Voters across Switzerland will go to the polls Sunday in the country’s first federal elections in four years.

What’s happened so far 
The country’s last federal election held in 2019 saw the left-wing Green parties significantly increase their representation, with big gains in Geneva and Zurich. They will be looking to hold on to those seats, but polling suggests a dip in their support. The anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party is looking to capitalize on its position as the sole opponent to a recent climate law, with polling putting it consistently 10 points ahead of rivals.

The impact 
Little is likely to immediately change in Switzerland, which has a complicated electoral system favoring direct democracy and local input over the concentration of power at the top of government. Immigration and the fallout from the Credit Suisse bailout top a range of issues, with right wing parties expected to pick up support, in a shift from the 2019 poll which focused heavily on climate change.


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Oct. 22 – Argentina general elections

Argentina will hold presidential elections on Sunday, with three candidates in a tight race to replace incumbent President Alberto Fernández’s seat in the presidential palace.

What’s happened so far 
During the Simultaneous and Mandatory Open Primaries (PASO) in August, far-right libertarian candidate Javier Milei was the unexpected winner, closely followed by current economic minister Sergio Massa, then the former defense minister and opposition leader Patricia Bullrich. Polls suggest the race remains tight ahead of Sunday’s vote, with Milei in a slight lead without a majority.

The impact 
The elections have been dominated by a profound economic crisis, with inflation at a staggering 138 percent as of September and continuing to rise at an alarming rate, as well as rising interest rates and an expected further devaluation of the peso. With a Nov. 19 run-off being likely, the winner of the country’s presidential election faces an unprecedented economic crisis to resolve, alongside the existing high crime rates and possible long-term effects of a drought season that has crushed the country’s agricultural industry.


Oct. 23 – U.S. Senator Menendez’s arraignment  

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is expected in federal court again on Monday following a new set of corruption charges.

What’s happened so far 
This is not the first time Menendez has been in legal trouble for possible corruption. In 2015, he was indicted, along with a doctor in Florida, following allegations that he wanted the State Department to pressure the Dominican Republic to enforce a contract benefitting the doctor’s company in exchange for campaign money and swanky gifts. That trial ended in a mistrial in 2017 but Menendez was indicted again last month along with his wife. This time, prosecutors say he helped the Egyptian government in exchange for cash and gold, found in his house. He and his wife pleaded not guilty to those charges, and he stepped down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Last week, both were charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act

The impact 
Unlike last time, several Senate Democrats have called on Menendez to resign from Congress, including New Jersey’s other senator, Cory Booker. Menendez is up for reelection next year and although New Jersey is a reliably blue state, anything could happen if Menendez runs while under indictment. New Jersey voted statewide for a Republican as recently as 2013. That could put an end to the Democrats’ current small majority in the Senate.


What Else Matters

The two leaders sit in chairs in a formal photo
President Joe Biden traveled to Israel on Wednesday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders as tensions continue to flare in the nation’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza. (Photo: White House / Twitter)

Fears of regional spillover in Israel-Hamas war

Israeli authorities told residents in northern areas of the densely populated Gaza Strip to evacuate toward the south amid unconfirmed reports of preparations for a ground assault. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers are stationed around the Gaza border, as well as the northern border with Lebanon, following days of tit-for-tat artillery and rocket fire. As a result, Israel additionally ordered the evacuation of all border towns within 2 kilometers of Lebanon, as a precaution. Multiple international leaders have made solidarity visits to Israel, including U.S. President Joe Biden, who, during a joint-press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, blamed “the other team” for Tuesday’s deadly strike at a hospital in Gaza City that left hundreds of Palestinians dead. He also announced that Egypt and Israel had agreed to allow aid to reach Palestinians through the vital Rafah border crossing, though a date for humanitarian trucks to cross has not yet been set. 

Watch for: 
Iran, as the backing government of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has warned Israel of “imminent pre-emptive action” should the military goes ahead with a ground invasion of Gaza, leading to fears that the war that has so far been limited between Gaza and Israel could spill over to a regional conflict involving Iran. Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza continues to rise sharply, with the local health ministry saying more than 3,700 people have died in the last 12 days. The humanitarian crisis grows more dire by the day, as hospitals face unprecedented shortages in power and supplies.


Ghana’s Akosombo Dam overflows 

At least 8,000 people have been rescued from flooded areas in Ghana’s Volta region after the country’s Akosombo dam overflowed, according to the Ghanaian Navy. Local authorities began a controlled release of water from the dam in mid-September, after heavy rainfall caused water levels to rise substantially in the nearby Akosombo reservoir. Thousands of homes along the banks of the River Volta have been destroyed by rising water levels, and essential services, including electricity, were disrupted in the area, according to local media.

Watch for: 
The Ghanaian military says it is monitoring critical infrastructure in the Volta region and will deploy further rescue teams if necessary. Ghana’s President Nana Afuko-Addo set up an ministerial committee to investigate the spillage and coordinate a government response. Local authorities say the dam discharge is ongoing, meaning downstream communities will continue to be impacted by flooding until water levels in the reservoir return to normal. 


Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Oct. 20-27 

Oct. 20

  • African football league starts
  • Pan American Games begin in Santiago, Chile
  • Japan parliament extraordinary session
  • Revolution Day in Guatemala
  • U.S.-EU summit

Oct. 21 

  • Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan

Oct. 22 

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

Oct. 23

  • U.S. Senator Menendez’s arraignment

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 of Madagascar presidential election

Nov. 11-17 

Nov. 14 

  • Provincial election in Northwest Territories, Canada
  • APEC Ministerial Meeting

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