Menu Close

Forecast: Tennessee continues tornado recovery, Serbia holds parliamentary elections, and Chile votes on new constitution

This organized crowd of people has a Serbian flag for about every other person. They stand behind a banner in Serbian.

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.

A string of tornadoes touched down in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky last weekend, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Joe Veyera discuss the damage estimates as well as a new round of storms headed for the US South and Northeast. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of December 15-22
A Look Ahead

Dec. 15 – End of EU leaders summit  

The last European Union leaders summit of the year will end Friday in Brussels after days of discussions around several international conflicts.

What’s happened so far 
It has been a busy year for the European Union with the continuation of the war in Ukraine, a new war in the Middle East and efforts to enlarge the group of EU members. Before the summit, lawmakers presented their demands and expectations. Several countries, including Spain and Belgium, are expected to call for a permanent humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

The impact 
At the end of the summit, leaders are expected to agree on a long-term 2021-2027 budget. Talks will also focus on the Russia-Ukraine war, the situation in the Middle East and the the addition of Ukraine and Moldova to the EU. During the two-day event, a safety zone will be set up with only authorized persons allowed to enter on foot.

Dec. 15 – Ethiopia talks with creditors  

Ethiopia is holding negotiations with bondholders Thursday in an effort to change the terms of its $1 billion bonds due in 2024 because it says it’s unable to honor a $33-million interest payment due Monday. It’s setting up to be the latest debt default, a relatively rare event in sovereign credit markets, in Africa following failures by Zambia and Ghana to meet their obligations in 2020 and 2022, respectively. 

What’s happened so far 
More than a year after the government and rebel Tigray region militants halted fighting, Ethiopia’s finances are still suffering the impact of the conflict that killed tens of thousands of people. Fitch Ratings estimated the government needs to come up with $1 billion to service its debt in the fiscal year that ends in July and double the amount the following year. Its savings stand at just $1 billion, less than a month’s worth of external obligations. The outstanding bonds being renegotiated are due for repayment in December 2024.

The impact 
Ethiopia’s financial troubles reflect the disproportionate impact high global interest rates have on the economies of poor nations, which have little room to maneuver when domestic or international crises hit. The country of 130 million people owes about $28 billion in total to foreign creditors and has struggled to secure an International Monetary Fund bailout due to austerity conditions the lender ties to its aid.

Dec. 17 – Serbian elections  

Snap parliamentary elections will be held in Serbia on Sunday.

What’s happened so far 
The poll will be the first since the country held elections 20 months ago that resulted in another large victory for President Aleksander Vucic’s SNS coalition. While Vucic is no longer leader of the SNS coalition, he retains an outsized role in Serbian politics and has continued to dominate the runup to this vote.

The impact 
While polls show the SNS coalition likely to secure yet another victory, a united opposition movement called “Serbia Against Violence” has formed in the wake of May’s two mass shootings and subsequent protests. While the movement is a broad ideological tent, they are united by a pro-EU stance that juxtaposes Vucic’s views on Brussels and his overseeing of democratic backsliding in Serbia. While a pathway to parliamentary victory appears less likely, polls forecast an opposition victory in Belgrade’s mayoral election, which would mark a significant symbolic defeat for Vucic. 

Dec. 17 – Chile constitutional referendum  

On Sunday, Chileans will head to polls to either accept or reject proposed changes to the country’s constitution.

What’s happened so far 
Following the resounding rejection of the first iteration of a largely progressive constitution led by President Gabriel Boric in September 2022, a new process was voted in earlier this year to change the Augusto Pinochet-era constitution. During this vote, a right-wing coalition of parties won and were able to secure a majority in redrafting the constitution and lead the process. Recent polls indicate that this proposed constitution is likely to be rejected once more, due to the inclusion of more conservative political and social reforms on topics such as abortion, immigration and access to health care. 

The impact 
While the right-wing coalition ceded on several points including indigenous, gender and water rights, the new draft is undoubtedly an overhaul of the one rejected in late 2022. Boric’s government was voted into power in early 2022 with the purpose of creating a progressive constitution, and if the new draft is approved in December, it could mark the downfall of his government. Regardless of the result, protests are likely to follow, as widespread unrest over social reform in Santiago has been a constant since 2019. It’s unclear, however, if a new constitutional process will be announced if the draft is rejected for a second time. 

Dec. 18 – Iraqi governorate council elections  

After a four-year delay, voters in 15 Iraqi governorates, except the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, will report to the polls Monday to elect members of the powerful provincial councils, whose responsibilities include electing and overseeing regional governors and setting budgets for key sectors like education, health and transport.

What’s happened so far 
The current round of elections was originally slated for 2019, but was delayed indefinitely amid widespread, highly disruptive protests and deadly clashes over rampant corruption within the councils. The protests eventually prompted Parliament to dissolve all governorate councils, leaving just the provincial governors. This round of elections will be a practical restart of the local government system. The perception of corruption among these councils still holds strong among the Iraqi public — significantly enough to lead multiple parties to boycott these elections.

The impact 
The political landscape in Iraq has changed significantly since these councils were last elected, meaning sweeping changes to the councils — to reflect the make up and priorities of government in regions they represent — are in the cards. But these changes are unlikely to restore public faith in these councils, which was allayed little by political developments since 2019, making a repeat of that year’s disruptive protests a possibility in the future.

Dec. 20 – DR Congo presidential elections  

Voters in DR Congo face a choice between a crowded field of opposition candidates and incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi during Wednesday’s presidential vote.

What’s happened so far 
A total of 22 candidates are participating in the polls, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, mining magnate Moïse Katumbi and Martin Fayulu, who was widely acknowledged to be the legitimate winner of DR Congo’s 2018 election but robbed of victory by an apparent deal struck between Tshisekedi and the outgoing President Joseph Kabila. Campaigning in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation has so far been marred by insecurity and allegations of irregularities in the electoral process. The EU withdrew the majority of its observers due to insecurity, and voting will not take place in parts of DR Congo’s North Kivu region impacted by the M23 militant conflict.

The impact 
Tshisekedi is slated to win the election, in part due to the fragmented opposition and in part due to DR Congo’s single-round electoral system, which rewards the candidate with the largest vote share regardless of whether they have won a majority. Given the country’s history of contested elections, the result, which is due to be announced by Dec. 31, is unlikely to be universally accepted either by international observers or by the opposition. The new president will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2024.

Dec. 20 – Junior doctors’ strike in England  

Junior doctors in England will strike for three days starting Wednesday.

What’s happened so far 
The British Medical Association (BMA), under which nearly 200,000 doctors in Britain are unionized, called for new strike action between Dec. 20 and 23 over an ongoing dispute over pay. The BMA rejected the latest government offer to increase pay an additional 3 percent across some doctors’ grades after weeks of talks, saying the measure would still represent pay cuts for a sector of the medical workforce. 

The impact 
The strike, which is the longest in the history of the National Health Service, is expected to cause disruptions across hospitals with patient appointments likely to be canceled and emergency services under additional pressure. A second round of strikes has been called for January. 

What Else Matters

The boom of a firetruck rises over the wreckage of a house destroyed by a tornado. There is a red car with broken windows atop more wreckage. The tree to the left of the frame has roofing hanging inside of it.
Widespread damage was reported across Tennessee last weekend, including as seen above in Nashville, after tornado-warned storms passed through the state on Dec. 9. (Photo: Nashville EOC/OEM)

Political crisis in Guatemala 

The political crisis in Guatemala has worsened in recent days with less than a month until President-elect Bernardo Arévalo is supposed to take office. Last week, the controversial attorney general presented the results of an investigation into Arévalo’s political party, alleging irregular registration due to false signatures as well as money laundering. The office also requested for the election results to be annulled and immunity to be lifted for Arévalo. But the Supreme Electoral Tribunal does not have a quorum after Guatemala’s Congress, dominated by the ruling party, stripped four judges of their immunity, which led to them fleeing the country. 

Watch for: The Supreme Electoral Tribunal likely can’t rule on anything until it has two new magistrates, which would be picked by Congress. This could be a way to get several anti-Arévalo judges on the tribunal. Since Arévalo’s big win in August, the Organization of American States has steadfastly urged Guatemala to respect the will of the people, calling the attorney general’s actions undemocratic and an attempted coup. If the current government succeeds and Arévalo is arrested or forced to flee the country, there will likely continue to be large protests by the population calling for the election results to be upheld.

Red Sea incidents 

The Houthi rebel group, backed by Iran and in control of much of northern Yemen. including the capital Sana’a and the port of Hodeidah, has launched a series of attacks and seizures on ships traveling through waters controlled by the group in the southern Red Sea. The attacks have ranged from the seizure of the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader commercial ship on Nov. 19, to the targeting of the USS Carney and several commercial ships with drone strikes on Dec. 2. The rebel group said it’s targeting Israeli ships in retaliation for the country’s offensive in Gaza, which has led to the death of more than 18,600 people, according to Palestinian health sources.

Watch for: These attacks come as Yemen’s Houthis threaten to seize Israel-bound ships of any nationality through the Arabian or Red Seas until Israel allows “sufficient” food and medical supplies into the Gaza Strip. The United States has met with its allies over the potential formation of a task force in the Red Sea to protect shipping through the maritime crossing, with several countries, including France, already downing drones launched from Yemen’s western coast. The uptick in attacks not only risks cargo and energy shipments from the Suez Canal, but also risks extending the Israel-Hamas war to yet another active front as Israel is met with missile strikes from both its Lebanon and Syrian border.

Severe weather in U.S. South 

Days after a tornado outbreak across Middle Tennessee left six people dead, dozens more hurt and thousands either displaced or without power, another round of storms is expected to impact the southern United States this weekend

Watch for: Central Texas will bear the brunt starting Thursday, with anywhere from one to two inches of rain forecast for San Angelo, with the potential for minor flooding. The storm then moves toward the Gulf Coast, with up to an inch of rain forecast for Houston and a half-inch for New Orleans. Meanwhile, South Florida, including Miami, could see several inches of rain into the weekend, with a “limited chance” of localized flooding, according to the NWS.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Dec. 14-22 

Dec. 14

  • European Council meeting
  • Russia’s Putin holds annual news conference
  • Dakar court to rule on Ousmane Sonko’s candidacy for 2024 Senegal elections

Dec. 15

  • South Africa declares holiday to celebrate rugby win
  • Ethiopia will hold a call with its international bondholders
  • End of EU leaders summit
  • IMF board decision on loan for Comoros

Dec. 16

  • Ivory Coast opposition holds leadership vote ahead of 2025 elections

Dec. 17 

  • Chad constitutional referendum
  • Chile constitutional plebiscite
  • Serbia elections

Dec. 18 

  • Iraq provincial council elections

Dec. 19

  • IMF board decision on loan for Mauritania

Dec. 20

  • Second round Madagascar presidential election
  • Taiwan elections televised candidates policy presentation
  • DR Congo presidential elections
  • Junior doctors’ strike in England

Dec. 23-29 

Dec. 24 

  • Christmas Eve

Dec. 25

  • Christmas Day

Dec. 26

  • Kwanzaa begins

Dec. 30-Jan. 5 

Dec. 31

  • DR Congo election results expected

Jan. 3

  • Junior doctors’ strike in England

Jan. 6-12

Jan. 7

  • Bangladesh parliamentary elections

Thanks for reading! If you want the Factal Forecast in your inbox, you can sign up for free.

Top photo: Members of the Serbia Against Violence movement gathered in Belgrade on Dec. 12 ahead of the snap parliamentary elections in the country. (Photo: Voice of America)

Factal gives companies the facts they need in real time to protect people, avoid disruptions and drive automation when the unexpected happens.

Try Factal for free or talk with our sales team ( for a demo.