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Forecast: Protests erupt in Panama over Canadian copper mine contract, Australian PM visits China, and EU presents report on Ukraine accession bid

EU President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and President of the European Council Charles Michel shake hands and smile at cameras following a press conference at the EU summit in Brussels.

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.

Nationwide protests erupted in Panama recently after the government approved a 20-year contract extension for a foreign-owned open-pit copper mine. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jaime Calle Moreno discuss local response to demonstrations and why the protests are likely to continue.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of November 3-10
A Look Ahead

Nov. 4 – Day of the Dead parade in CDMX

The traditional Day of the Dead grand parade will take place in the Mexica City on Saturday to close the festive season. 

What’s happened so far 
The four-hour parade will pass through emblematic areas of Mexico City’s center to mark the end of the Day of the Dead festivities, which started on Oct. 21. The event will be broadcasted live through official local government and private TV channels.

The impact 
The government of the capital has deployed more than 17,000 police officers and 38 mobile medical units since the start of the festivities. The parade will start at 2 pm local time in the Puerta de Leones area of Chapultepect and will finish in Zócalo Square, with multiple road closures across the city center throughout the event.

Nov. 4 – Australia PM visits China  

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to China from Saturday through Tuesday to meet with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang following a recent breakthrough in trade relations. 

What’s happened so far 
China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, accounting for more than 30 percent of Australia’s trade with the world, according to the Australian government. Despite this, diplomatic ties between the two countries spiraled in 2020, with Beijing imposing tariffs on Australian goods like barley, wine and lobsters. Relations have improved considerably, however, since Australia elected its current center-left Labor government in 2022.

The impact 
Albanese’s visit will be the first to China by an Australian prime minister since 2016. Both Australia and China have indicated they will reach a deal to end Chinese tariffs on Australian wine exports, continuing a trend of normalizing relations.

Nov. 5 – Moldova local elections  

Moldovan authorities have sought to limit potential Russian influence on Sunday’s local elections by banning Russian websites and restricting the pro-Russian Shor party from participating in the polls. 

What’s happened so far 
Moldova’s Constitutional Court banned Shor in June, but is allowing its members to run as independent candidates in Sunday’s election, provided they don’t represent the party. The parliament, however, approved restrictions on candidates with criminal backgrounds, effectively banning several Shor leaders from running. The country’s security services also blocked access to over 50 Russian-affiliated websites, including the major news agencies Interfax and Tass, after accusing them of facilitating an information war.

The impact 
Voters will select both parliamentary representatives and some city mayors in the election, with runoffs due to be held on Nov. 19 for any undecided mayoral races. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is sending electoral observers. The Russia-occupied breakaway region of Transnistria has its own political system and its voters will not participate in Sunday’s polls.

Nov. 7 – U.S. local elections  

A pair of gubernatorial races, four state legislatures, several referendums and numerous municipal positions are on the ballot across the United States as voters weigh in Tuesday during off-year elections. 

What’s happened so far 
Republicans already flipped the governor’s office in Louisiana, after Attorney General Jeff Landry earned more than 50 percent of the vote in the state’s Oct. 14 primary and avoided a run-off to succeed term-limited Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards. Incumbent governors Andy Beshear and Tate Reeves are seeking second terms in Kentucky and Mississippi respectively, while legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey are closely contested. 

The impact 
Both the results and overall turnout will provide a benchmark for voter enthusiasm one year out from a potential presidential election rematch between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Meanwhile, the GOP could gain full control of state government in Virginia by flipping the Senate and holding the House of Delegates, with many viewing it as a litmus test for a new Republican approach to abortion rights with Gov. Glenn Youngkin in favor of passing a 15-week ban, with exceptions.  

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Nov. 8 – Ukraine’s EU membership bid to be assessed

The European Commission is reportedly set to unveil a report Wednesday assessing progress in Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc.

What’s happened so far 
Ukraine has long held aspirations to accede to the European Union, most notably manifesting as the main  force behind Ukraine’s 2014 revolution that precipitated Russia’s initial invasion. Just days after last February’s full invasion, Ukraine officially applied for fast-tracked membership. 

The impact 
The report will mark a key step as Brussels assesses Ukraine’s progress in meeting the economic, political and legal criteria for membership. A decision is expected regarding whether the bloc will launch formal negotiations with Kyiv when EU leaders meet for a summit beginning Dec. 14. EU accession remains a top goal for Kyiv as Ukraine’s war against Russia continues to drag on with frontlines hardening in the country’s east and south. 

What Else Matters

Protestors in Panama on a crowded street wave numerous flags.
Protests have been ongoing in Panama, seen above on Nov. 1, since a late-October agreement between the government and a Canadian mining company. (Photo: HelloPanama507 / Wikimedia Commons)

Panama mining contract and protests 

Nationwide protests erupted in Panama over the last week following an Oct. 22 agreement between the Panamanian government and a Canadian mining company on a 20-year extension contract to mine and service one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines. At least 39 police officers have been reported injured since protests began, and more than 800 people have been arrested, mostly in road blockades along the main Pan-American Highway that have, in some instances, turned violent. In response to the protests, President Laurentino Cortizo said a referendum would be held Dec. 17 on the agreement, though the country’s electoral court said the conditions for a referendum have not been met.

Watch for: Protests against the law are likely to continue, so disruption is expected to persist across the country in terms of travel, agricultural output and commercial activity, which could lead to economic losses as well as more injuries, arrests or deaths. The Canadian mining company, First Quantum Minerals, has already seen its largest share decrease in 26 years. Civil parades set to take place this week have been canceled or suspended, but it is yet to be seen how the government will react as the protests continue as well as whether a referendum is set to take place. 

Sudan ceasefire talks 

A new round of talks between Sudan’s rival military factions is underway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, seeking to stop six months of fighting that have left an estimated 9,000 people dead and 5.6 million others displaced. The rebel Rapid Response Force (RSF) appears to be making gains on the ground, expanding territory under its control in Darfur region and West Kordofan state.

Watch for: Mediators Saudi Arabia and the United States are limiting goals for the negotiations to the delivery of humanitarian aid, a temporary ceasefire in an effort to build “confidence” between the warring sides and work toward a permanent halt to fighting. Political issues related to the country’s halted transition to democratic governance aren’t on the table. The talks coincide with RSF taking control of the country’s second-largest city of Nyala and the Belila airport and oil field, while fighting around the capital of Khartoum continues to endanger civilians.

Israeli military incursions into Gaza 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that the war on Gaza has entered the “second phase” as ground troops have been reported to be engaging in close-range fighting along areas northwest, northeast and south of Gaza City. According to the UN, the gradual ground operation comes amid the “most intense shelling” across the Palestinian territory since the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, with Gaza’s health ministry reporting more than 9,000 people dead. Gaza has also experienced power cuts and connectivity blackouts coinciding with armed fighting along the Erez border in the north and communities in the east. While Palestinians in the north were urged earlier in the war to flee south, residents say Gaza’s main highway used for evacuations is no longer a safe route after an Israeli military tank operating in the vicinity reportedly targeted fleeing civilians.

Watch for: Israeli military officials earlier announced a three-step military operation in and around Gaza that would ultimately aim to “overthrow” the Hamas government. Since then, they have released little information about the supposed second phase of the operation, with the army instead only releasing heavily edited videos that obfuscate how many troops are actually in Gaza and how far into the Palestinian territory they’ve traveled. Israeli military analysts have described the current tactic as “gradualism,” with troops supposedly moving inward into Gaza slowly before beginning the widely anticipated full-scale assault into populated areas of Gaza.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Nov. 3-10

Nov. 3

  • Biden hosts summit on migration
  • Japanese prime minister visits Philippines

Nov. 4

  • Mexico City’s Day of the Dead Parade
  • Australian prime minister visits China

Nov. 5

  • Moldova local elections

Nov. 7

  • Gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi

Nov. 8

  • Ukraine’s EU membership bid to be assessed in report
  • Third GOP presidential debate

Nov. 11-17 

Nov. 13

  • Polish parliament to convene to form government

Nov. 14 

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

Nov. 16

  • First round of Madagascar presidential election

Nov. 17

  • U.S. government funding deadline

Nov. 18-24

Nov. 19

  • Argentina presidential runoff
  • 110th Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ontario
  • 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands

Nov. 22

  • Netherlands elections
  • UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers autumn statement

Nov. 23

  • U.S. Thanksgiving

Nov. 25-Dec. 1 

Nov. 30 

  • COP 28 in Dubai
  • Trial against Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu
  • Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis to debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom

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