Menu Close

Forecast: Bridge collapses in Baltimore, Turkey and Pakistan hold elections, and Paris braces for public transit strike

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.

At least two people are dead and four others missing after a 95,000-ton cargo ship crashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Joe Veyera discuss the recovery effort and the extended impact the collapse will have on the important Port of Baltimore and the 30,000 daily commuters who relied on the bridge. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of March 29-April 5
A Look Ahead

March 31 – Turkey votes in local elections

Millions of Turks will cast their vote in closely watched local elections Sunday. The vote is for mayors, district mayors and local administration, but these polls play out as a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity and can lay the groundwork for whether he will find a way to remain in power or set up for succession.

What’s happened so far 
Istanbul is the most critical vote with Ekrem Imamoglu, the popular incumbent mayor and Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate, widely seen as a future presidential contender — potentially against Erdogan. Once Istanbul’s mayor himself, Erdogan sees it as a rite of presidential passage. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) government inadvertently showcased Imamoglu’s winnability in 2019 by insisting on a rerun, which he also won. The current AKP candidate, Environment Minister Murat Kurum, may be more lackluster than the 2019 one, but the government has had five years to prepare, even controlling who the public gets to see on TV

The impact 
If Kurum wins Istanbul, it will likely be seen as a signal for Erdogan to dig in deeper — either by ensuring a fourth term or by setting up the country for a succession plan. If Imamoglu wins, the ruling AKP is expected to create political discord and push for a more religious constitution. Either way, people will be on the streets on election night. Any CHP losses in key cities of Ankara, Izmir or Hatay will establish the party as a has-been and those areas could lose their secular credentials. Monitors will also be watching the status of the Kurdistan Democratic Party after most of its officials were replaced with “trustees,” a possible reduction of LGBTQI+ rights, and bureaucratic hurdles where local government is not aligned with Ankara.

March 31 – Brazilian debt relief program to expire  

The Brazilian debt renegotiation program launched in July 2023 is set to expire Sunday.

What’s happened so far 
The program was launched by President Lula da Silva’s government in July to relieve low-income households who were financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It allows individual debtors with a gross monthly income of two minimum wages to renegotiate debts acquired through loans, credit cards, outstanding utilities bills and commerce bills between 2019 and 2022 that do not exceed R$20,000 ($4,000 USD). Cash payment discounts and restructuring payment in installments up to 60 months are the two main options that the program offers for debt relief. Negotiations can be carried out online or in person at 6,000 nationwide post offices.

The impact 
More than 12 million Brazilians from low-income households have renegotiated around R$37.5 billion ($7.5 billion USD) of debt with financial institutions since the program launched. Eligible applicants have until Sunday to reach an agreement with more than 600 creditors after the government announced no plans to extend the scheme. 

April 2 – New Portuguese government sworn in  

Luis Montenegro, leader of Portugal’s center-right Democratic Alliance (AD), will be sworn in as the country’s next prime minister Tuesday after a contested election.

What’s happened so far 
In the snap elections held on March 10 following the resignation of former Prime Minister Antonio Costa, AD won 80 seats in parliament, followed by the Socialist Party (PS) with 78 seats and the right-wing party Chega with 50. PS leader Pedro Nuno Santos was quick to concede and promised to lead a strong opposition, while Chega’s Andre Ventura has so far failed in several attempts to join AD in a coalition. 

The impact 
Montenegro faces a tough tenure with a minority government, and is facing increasing pressure to negotiate with the far-right party Chega. Throughout his campaign, he refused many times to form any kind of coalition with Chega, but Ventura’s surprising results might force Montenegro to at least try to negotiate. Many fear the government won’t last until the end of the year, as the new government has to pass next year’s budget, which will be presented in October. A rejected budget could lead to a new vote, the third in two years. The new government also faces challenges ranging from an economic crisis to deteriorating health and education systems, with public sector workers demanding better pay and working conditions.

April 2 – Pakistan’s Senate elections  

Pakistan will elect 48 new senators to a 6-year term on Tuesday amid ongoing political unrest in the country centered around the arrest of its former leader.

What’s happened so far 
Last month’s election saw candidates backed by imprisoned former leader Imran Khan win a plurality of parliamentary seats, but not enough for a majority. Nearly half the country went to the polls the day after deadly terrorist attacks in Balochistan, which led to a massive internet outage. Election observers did raise concerns about how the votes were tabulated after an extremely lengthy wait for results

The impact 
The new makeup of Pakistan’s Senate could lead to more head-butting with Khan’s former party. The voting, which will be done by officials, including National Assembly members, will likely skew toward party lines, leaving Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party with a plurality of seats once again but not enough to control the political body.

April 4 – Kuwait parliamentary elections  

Kuwait is set to hold snap-elections Thursday for the fourth time in four years.

What’s happened so far 
On March 15, Kuwait’s ruler Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved parliament in response to a lawmaker’s criticism during a session, which he called “a violation of the constitution” that mandates “respect” for the Emir. Kuwait has already held three elections in the last three years, the latest of which, in June 2023, saw opposition members securing the most seats.

The impact 
Kuwait’s elections come amid years of political deadlock preventing parliament from passing reforms aimed at diversifying the country’s economy. Due to a law introduced earlier in the month, they will be held without an elections committee and will instead be overseen by an independent authority. Analysts, however, predict a low voter turnout as the voting process takes place during the holy month of Ramadan.

April 4 – Public transit strike in Paris  

Rail services in France’s capital region will be disrupted Thursday due to strike by unionized workers.

What’s happened so far 
France’s largest union, the CGT, has called on its workers at the RATP transport operator to strike over the state’s pay rise proposal. RATP’s management proposed a flat increase of €100 ($108 USD) per month per worker, but the CGT said workers will not see the full benefit of this offer until January 2025 as the increase is paid in two stages. The CGT has filed a strike notice active through Sept. 9, meaning industrial action is possible at any time until this date.

The impact 
If a resolution to the pay dispute is not reached, the CGT could call further strikes during the Paris Olympics in late July and early August, disrupting for the 15 million people who are expected in the city for the games. Two other unions, the UNSA and FO, have already suspended participation in negotiations to keep services running during the Olympics. 

What Else Matters

The wreckage from the collapsed remnants of a bridge rest atop a massive container ship
A Singapore-flagged container ship crashed into a support column of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, sending the span into the Patapsco River below. (Photo: David Adams / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Baltimore bridge collapse

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency Tuesday after a Singapore-flagged container ship crashed into a support column of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge shortly before 1:30 a.m. ET, sending the span into the Patapsco River below. As of Wednesday afternoon, at least two construction workers were confirmed dead and four others remained unaccounted for and presumed dead, but a mayday call from the vessel allowed emergency responders to stop vehicles from crossing the bridge before impact, preventing additional casualties.

Watch for: 
Officials have already committed to rebuilding the bridge, which carried an average of more than 30,000 vehicles per day, but say its too early to determine a timeline or cost for the project. Experts suggest it may take multiple years, with some invoking the example of the Tampa Bay’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which took seven years to rebuild following its 1980 collapse. The incident is also expected to have significant logistical impacts for shipping companies with the Port of Baltimore — the nation’s busiest for cars and light trucks — suspending vessel traffic. Trucks carrying hazardous materials will face the stiffest detours, unable to use either tunnel that spans Baltimore Harbor, with an estimated 30-mile reroute.

Moscow attack 

Nearly 140 people were killed and another 182 injured last weekend in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Russia in decades after four gunmen stormed a concert hall in northeastern Moscow. Four Tajikistan citizens were arrested and accused of perpetrating the attack, which involved indiscriminate gunfire from military-grade rifles as well as molotov cocktails. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-based Khorasan branch (ISIS-K) and marks the first major attack in Russia perpetrated by radical Islamic militants in years after they became commonplace in previous decades as open conflict burned in Russia’s North Caucasus. 

Watch for: Despite the Islamic State’s quick claim of responsibility, which was widely corroborated by western agencies that warned of the attack weeks prior — including in a security alert issued by the U.S. embassy in the attackers’ native Tajikistan — Russia was quick to blame Ukraine. Both the FSB chief as well as the head of Russia’s powerful Security Council openly accused Kyiv of orchestrating the attack, while President Vladimir Putin seized upon the suspects’ arrests in the border region of Bryansk to claim Ukrainian involvement. Despite Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko making claims that directly dispute the Kremlin’s narrative, high-level Kremlin officials have openly declared Ukrainian intelligence heads legitimate military targets amid multiple waves of intense missile strikes across Ukraine coinciding with the Moscow attack’s aftermath. While escalation in Ukraine is a near-term possibility, the attack underscores the atrophy of the Russian security apparatuses’ priorities as the Ukraine war continues to sap attention.

Johannesburg water crisis 

Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, and its surroundings are facing an intensifying water shortage that has left 15 million people without consistent access to clean water for multiple weeks. Authorities blame the crisis on factors including leaks and bursts of aging pipes, theft and hot weather, all adding up to dwindling reservoir levels.

Watch for: Water outages are being reported on a daily basis across Gauteng province, including in high-profile areas such as Johannesburg’s Central Business District and the country’s administrative capital of Pretoria, prompting people to endure long lines for water trucks. While officials urge the public to conserve water, the crisis is adding to an existing electricity shortage that has crippled the continent’s most industrialized economy for years. South Africa is heading into national elections in May, where the ruling African National Congress is attempting to extend its three decades in power in the face of a myriad of other challenges, including surging poverty and unemployment.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

March 29-April 5 

March 29

  • One year since WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich detained in Russia

March 31

  • Easter
  • Turkey local elections
  • Brazilian debt relief program to expire

April 2

  • End of Senegalese president’s term
  • Pakistan Senate elections
  • New Portuguese government sworn in

April 4

  • Kuwait parliamentary elections
  • France public transport strike

April 6-12 

April 6

  • Slovakia presidential runoff

April 8

  • Total solar eclipse

April 10

  • President Biden to host Japanese Prime Minister Kishida for state visit
  • South Korea legislative elections

April 11

  • 2024 Masters at Augusta National
  • Japanese Prime Minister Kishida to address U.S. Congress

April 13-19 

April 13

  • Songkran

April 15

  • Boston Marathon

April 17

  • Solomon Islands general election
  • Croatia parliamentary elections

April 19

  • India general elections begin

April 20-26

April 20

  • Togo legislative elections

April 21

  • Basque regional election

April 22

  • UN and Nigeria lead joint counter-terrorism summit in Abuja

April 23

  • UK-African Investment Summit in London

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

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.