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Forecast: South Korea doctors’ strike brings major disruptions, Pakistan’s PTI holds elections, and Super Tuesday in the US

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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.

Junior doctors in South Korea went on strike starting last week in protest of the government’s plan to ramp up the number of students admitted into medical schools. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Vivian Wang discuss how the strike has impacted medical services and why the doctors-in-training object to the government’s effort to address the shortage of physicians.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of March 1-8
A Look Ahead

Feb. 29 – Texas Panhandle wildfire response 

Emergency crews will continue their efforts Thursday to bring several wildfires across the Texas Panhandle under control. 

What’s happened so far 
Since igniting Monday, the Smoke House Creek Fire quickly ballooned into the second largest wildfire in Texas history — covering 850,000 acres as of Wednesday afternoon — while several other fires burned across the region, triggering evacuation orders and highway closures in the area. Dozens of homes have been damaged or destroyed between the towns of Canadian, Fritch, and Stinnett. As of Wednesday evening, there are no reports of fatalities or injuries, but search efforts are ongoing.

The impact 
After a slight reprieve, dangerous fire conditions are expected to return Friday and into the weekend, with high temperatures in the upper 70s and winds from 20 to 30 mph with stronger gusts. Damage estimates are expected to rise drastically as authorities access the towns affected.

March 3 – PTI holds intra-party elections  

Pakistan’s Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party plans to hold intra-party elections Sunday.

What’s happened so far 
Pakistan’s Supreme Court stripped PTI’s bat electoral symbol ahead of the Feb. 8 general elections after deeming their 2022 intra-party elections — a requirement under law to qualify for the symbol — “unconstitutional.” As a result, hundreds of party members were forced to run as independent candidates. Despite this, candidates allied to the PTI, founded by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, managed to secure the most seats with 97 out of the 265 available, though they fell short of an outright majority.

The impact 
Tahreen-e-Insaf supporters have called for additional protests to be held across Pakistan, alleging tampering in the Feb. 8 general elections and accusing the government of targeting Khan, who faces years behind bars on multiple convictions. Although the intra-party elections aim to elect a new party chairman, negotiations appear to be solidifying between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party on a possible governing coalition

March 4 – Super Tuesday  

Voters in 15 states and American Samoa, including delegate-rich California and Texas, will cast their ballots in presidential primaries Tuesday.

What’s happened so far 
Former President Donald Trump has won all four competitive Republican nominating contests to this point, taking first in the Iowa caucuses, along with primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan. Ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the lone significant challenger remaining in the GOP field, but has thus far been able to translate stronger support among moderate voters into any victories. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has faced no significant opposition on the Democratic side, with a challenge from Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips failing to gain traction.  

The impact 
A strong showing by Trump could prove to be the final blow to Haley’s campaign, and essentially end the race for the Republican nomination. 

March 6 – U.K. spring budget  

British Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will present the government’s budget Wednesday, in which he will outline the economic and fiscal plan for the year.

What’s happened so far 
The United Kingdom’s budget announcement takes place every year around March, with the government detailing its plan on public spending, taxes and initiatives such as childcare and housing support. While the Conservative Party has suggested it wants to cut taxes, the country is currently facing a recession, with the worst gross domestic product performance in years.

The impact 
With it likely the last budget before general elections, the government will try to attract some voters by announcing some tax cuts. There is still not a date set for the vote, but analysts suggest it will happen before the end of the year. The UK Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned the chancellor to avoid announcing large tax cuts as he would need to find £35 billion ($44 billion) of cuts from public services, which are already struggling.

March 6 – National anti-government rally in Colombia  

On Wednesday, Colombia’s civilian opposition is set to hold a national anti-government march over President Gustavo Petro’s proposed reforms. 

What’s happened so far 
In December, after a 10-month discussion, Colombia’s Lower House passed Petro’s health reforms onto the next stage to get approved. The health reforms, the most controversial among a series of social reform proposals, aims to replace private insurers with a government service as a go-between between the general public and health-care providers. The civilian opposition, alongside former President Álvaro Uribe’s Centro Democratico party, set the march for next Wednesday. 

The impact 
It is unclear at this stage how large and disruptive the national protest against Petro’s reforms will end up being on Wednesday, but what is clear is that there is opposition to these reforms from a large swath of the population. This will be a test to one of the more important aims of Petro’s government, and it is yet to be seen the effect it will have on the Senate’s upcoming debates. 

March 7 – Biden state of the union  

President Joe Biden will deliver the State of the Union address on Thursday, his chance to speak to the American public amid concerns over his age and handling of several crises.

What’s happened so far 
Several recent presidential polls show Biden losing to former President Donald Trump in the 2024 election. It comes at a time when his memory has been called into question following a special counsel report that cleared him from “willfully” retaining and disclosing classified material. In the wake of that, he has avoided press conferences and traditional interviews, instead reaching out to voters through alternative methods.

The impact 
The Biden campaign sees the speech to Congress as a way to reset things. He may use it to tackle issues on which voters have doubts, including blaming corporate greed for high grocery prices and possibly even announcing an executive order to slow immigration at the Southern border. Biden will also likely touch on the war in Gaza, especially with reporting from Israeli media that he will invite families of people being held hostage by Hamas.

What Else Matters

Standing in front of a sign announcing the entry to the city a man in winter jacket takes a selfie.
The President of Ukraine visited Avdiivka and awarded the defenders of the city in December 2023. (Photo: President Of Ukraine / Flickr)

Russian initiative along Ukraine front 

Russian forces have fully resumed the initiative along the Ukraine front over the past few weeks following the fizzling of Kyiv’s summer 2023 counteroffensive. Moscow’s efforts culminated in its most notable capture since the fall of Bakhmut last spring when its soldiers forced Ukraine to retreat from the fully destroyed frontline city of Avdiivka in mid-February. The victory was as pyrrhic as the battle over Bakhmut, with some estimates indicating more Russian soldiers killed in action in the fight over Avdiivka than in the entire Afghanistan war in the 1980s. 

Watch for: While Russian casualties continue to occur at a stunning pace along the front, Ukrainian casualties are also mounting alongside increasingly debilitating logistical issues as western aid crawls to a halt. While President Volodymyr Zelenskyy admitted for the first time this week that more than 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action, the number is likely a significant undercount, with U.S. officials estimating a toll more than double that. Replenishing manpower has become a hot button political issue in Kyiv. With efforts to bolster manpower highly unpopular, Ukraine has gone so far as to actually begin the process of demobilizing some of those conscripted two years ago. Moscow appears poised to continue its efforts to capture the entirety of Ukraine’s Donbas, though this will be far easier said than done and continue to come at an immense cost. Still, areas such as Kupyansk and Chasiv Yar warrant close monitoring as Ukraine digs in.

Gunfire in N’Djamena, Chad

Several people were killed in multiple rounds of gunfire close to government buildings in the Chadian capital N’Djamena on Tuesday. Chad’s military junta accused the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders of participating in one exchange of fire outside the country’s intelligence agency headquarters, where the body of a party official was brought after he was killed in a separate shooting earlier Tuesday. Chad’s military junta confirmed that security forces shot and killed opposition leader Yaya Dillo during the outbreak of gunfire in N’Djamena on Wednesday, although his body has not yet been released.

Watch for: Network monitor NetBlocks said internet access was suspended across Chad as sporadic bursts of gunfire continued in the capital. The previous day, Chad’s elections agency had published a timetable to hold polls for the first time since a military coup in 2021, with the first round of voting due to take place May 6. It is yet unclear how Tuesday’s gunfire will impact the electoral timetable. 

South Korea doctors’ strike 

Thousands of trainee doctors in South Korea walked off their jobs more than a week ago in protest of government plans to recruit more medical students and increase the number of doctors. South Korea’s health ministry said the initiative is intended to address an expected shortfall of doctors and growing demand for medical care from the country’s aging population. Striking doctors, however, said the government must handle underpayment and overwork first, and argued that an abrupt increase in medical students will overwhelm schools and won’t address the lack of incentive for doctors to work in essential but low-paying specialties like emergency medicine. 

Watch for: Hospitals in the country have seen major disruptions, with patients turned away from emergency rooms and surgeries canceled or postponed. The government ordered junior doctors to return to work by Feb. 29, or face prosecution and the suspension of their medical licenses.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

March 1-8 

March 1

  • Iran parliamentary elections
  • Thailand and China waive visa requirements for travelers
  • Russia begins six-month gasoline export ban

March 3

  • Pakistan’s Tahreek-e-Insaf holds elections
  • El Salvador mayoral and municipal elections

March 4

  • Donald Trump 2020 election results trial in Washington
  • South Korea and U.S. hold annual Freedom Shield exercise

March 5 

  • Super Tuesday primaries

March 6

  • U.K. spring budget
  • National anti-government rally in Colombia

March 7

  • Biden delivers State of the Union address
  • U.S. Federal Reserve gives biannual monetary policy update to Senate committee

March 8

  • Boeing to start contract negotiations with Seattle-area union

March 9-15 

March 10 

  • Portugal elections

March 11

  • Biden to release proposed U.S. budget plan
  • Ramadan starts

March 12

  • Philippines president visits Germany

March 15

  • Deadline for India to withdraw troops from Maldives

March 16-22 

March 17 

  • Russia presidential election

March 19 

  • Special election for seat of former US.. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

March 20

  • Japan prime minister plans South Korea visit

March 23-29 

March 23

  • Slovakia presidential election

March 25 

  • Trump’s New York City criminal trial regarding hush money payments

March 26

  • U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on abortion pill case

March 28

  • Poland-Ukraine government talks in Warsaw

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