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Forecast: Gang violence plunges Haiti into crisis, Hungarian leader visits Trump in Florida, and Ramadan begins

Standing slightly to the right is a man at a lectern. He is wearing a near-black suit with a red tie. Signage in English behind him says "United we stand" and "CPAC, Budapest Hungary."

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.

Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency this weekend after gangs broke thousands of inmates out of prison and attempted to seize control of the country’s main airport. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jeff Landset discuss the spiraling violence and why Prime Minister Ariel Henry is facing pressure to resign.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of March 8-15
A Look Ahead

March 8 – Two referendums in Ireland on gender and family  

On Friday, Irish citizens will vote to update archaic language on gender and families in the country’s constitution.

What’s happened so far 
Taking place on International Women’s Day, the referendums seek to change wording about the definition of family and women’s roles. The first of the two changes relates to extending constitutional family protection to relationships outside of marriage, while the second concerns language hailing a woman’s “life within the home” as necessary for the “common good.”

The impact
The referendums, if passed, would mark the latest in a string of moves over the past decade to move Ireland away from its prior existence as a bastion for Catholic conservatism. While some supporters of the referendums are calling out the largely-symbolic nature of the votes, both are expected to pass, though results could end up closer than expected, according to polling experts. 

March 8 – Hungarian prime minister visits Trump  

Former President Donald Trump will host Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán on Friday at Trump’s Florida home Mar-a-Lago.   

What’s happened so far 
Orbán recently endorsed Trump’s bid to return to office, claiming that the “only serious chance for peace” between Russia and Ukraine hinges on his second term. The far-right prime minister and the former president have become noted allies, with Trump backing Orbán’s 2022 re-election campaign and frequently praising him in remarks since leaving office, and Orbán urging Trump to “keep on fighting” after charges were filed in the first of his now-four criminal cases. 

The impact 
Both Trump and Orbán have expressed skepticism, if not hostility, toward NATO leaders in recent months, with Trump claiming he would tell Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any members that don’t hit defense spending benchmarks, while Orbán has been accused of slow playing Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance, with the effort languishing in Hungary’s parliament for more than a year before its approval

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March 10 – Portugal elections

After the dissolution of parliament late last year, Portugal will hold fresh general elections this Sunday, during which a new prime minister will be elected.

What’s happened so far 
Prime Minister Antonio Costa resigned in November after being implicated in a corruption investigation. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa dissolved parliament and called a snap election following the resignation, just over one year after Costa’s party Socialist Party (PS) secured a landslide victory in the polls. The main parties, PS and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) — the former headed by former Infrastructure Minister Pedro Nuno Santos and the latter by lawyer Luis Montenegro — are currently neck and neck in the polls, with about 30 percent and 32 percent of the vote each.

The impact 
Neither PS or PSD are expected to win with a majority, meaning they will likely try to form coalitions. Nuno Santos could bring back 2015’s coalition with the Left Block and Pro-Europeanism party Livre. Meanwhile, Montenegro, who is running in an alliance with two right-wing parties, will likely partner with the Liberal Initiative. The country is currently facing economic, health and education crises. Recently, a police trade union threatened to boycott the vote amid a pay row with the government. Far-right party Chega’s leader Andre Ventura this week cast doubt on the electoral system, a strategy similar to that of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and the United States’ Donald Trump.

March 11 – Start of Ramadan  

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin on Sunday evening, with the first day of fasting set to begin Monday.

What’s happened so far 
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government would not impose restrictions on access of worshippers to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, the third holiest site for Muslims, during Ramadan. The decision was condemned by some of the cabinet’s far-right ministers, including Security Minister Ben-Gvir, who accused the prime minister of “endangering Israel” citing “security reasons.”

The impact 
There remains a lot of uncertainty on whether a ceasefire agreement will come into place in Gaza before the start of the Muslim holy month, or whether Israeli military activities are to continue and expand after Netanyahu signaled a possible southern military operation. Although talks are ongoing in Paris and a Hamas delegation is in Cairo for negotiations, there remain a list of key issues, including the release of hostages in return of Palestinian prisoners, which neither Hamas nor the Israeli government appear to have agreed to ahead of the looming deadline.

March 11 – Fed to allow emergency bank lending program to expire  

The U.S. Federal Reserve is set to call time on Sunday on an emergency banking lending program that was set up last year in the wake of a major bank collapse.

What’s happened so far 
The emergency funding lifeline was created following the Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse in March 2023 in an effort to contain any possible fallout and head off a broader financial crisis. The Bank Term Funding Program will cease issuing new loans Monday, the Fed announced in January, as it wraps up the program. Outside of financial difficulties, the Wall Street Journal reported that some banks have been accused of gaming the system and using the generous terms for “easy money.”

The impact 
No major banks have collapsed since the brief panic of March 2023, and with economic growth and a growing jobs market, the Fed remains cautious, putting off cuts to interest rates and indicating it wants to see more positive signs of growth.

March 11 – End of China’s annual Two Sessions  

The annual gatherings of China’s rubber-stamp legislature and a purely advisory political body, already underway in Beijing, will wrap on Monday after approving legislation, budgets and personnel changes for the year.

What’s happened so far 
China’s sluggish economy is at the forefront of the agenda this year, with weak domestic consumption, slow export momentum and a downturn in the property market acknowledged even by state-affiliated media

The impact 
While real decision-making power in China lies with the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, led by its seven-member standing committee, the Two Sessions are still an important venue for the country to set its political and economic agenda for the year. Investors will be watching for further announcements from the government to boost confidence in the economy, and political analysts will be on the lookout for messaging on geopolitical tensions with the United States. 

What Else Matters

From a high angle the photo looks at the formal French assembly with its tiers of seats and desks. The center includes the leadership of the Assembly.
French lawmakers approved an initiative to enshrine the right to abortion in the country’s constitution in a joint session vote on Monday. (Photo: French National Assembly)

France abortion law 

France became the first country in the world to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution in a parliamentary vote Monday. Lawmakers voted 780-72 for the initiative, which was initially introduced by the leftist France Unbowed party in 2022 before being adopted by President Emmanuel Macron. Several French government officials said the decision to make abortion a constitutional right was provoked by restrictions to the procedure being introduced in the United States and other European nations.

Watch for: The French government is holding a ceremony to celebrate the constitutional amendment on Friday, International Women’s Day, in central Paris. Public opinion is overwhelmingly supportive of the measure, with polling from 2022 showing more than 80 percent of people support abortion becoming a constitutional right, so no major demonstrations are expected. France’s solidification of abortion rights comes amid the rise of right-wing governments across Europe, which have curtailed access to the procedure in nations such as Poland and Hungary. 

Haiti violence 

Haiti has continued to plunge into chaos since Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled overseas and remained abroad for more than a week. In that time, gangs have run rampant through the country, especially in the capital of Port-au-Prince, releasing thousands of inmates from prisons and setting police stations on fire. Banks, schools and hospitals have been closed after authorities declared a three-day state of emergency and overnight curfew. Gangs also attempted to overtake Port-au-Prince’s airport, forcing the airport to shutter and blocking Henry’s return to the country.

Watch for: During Henry’s time abroad, he visited Nairobi to sign an agreement with Kenyan President William Ruto that would bring 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti to help fight gangs as part of an international force. But many countries that pledged support have expressed concerns about Henry’s grip on power and the lack of scheduled elections. Notorious gang leader Jimmy Cherizier specifically said he is attempting to overthrow Henry. If the prime minister does suddenly step down or seek asylum in another country, Haiti may become totally unruly, with the weakened police force even more demoralized, and it could lead to the total collapse of the government.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

March 8-15 

March 8

  • Boeing to start contract negotiations with Seattle-area union
  • Trump hosts Hungary’s Orban in Florida
  • Two referendums in Northern Ireland on gender and family

March 10 

  • Portugal elections
  • Deadline for India to withdraw troops from Maldives

March 11

  • Biden to release proposed U.S. budget plan
  • Ramadan starts
  • End of China’s annual Two Sessions parliamentary meeting

March 12

  • Philippines president visits Germany

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

March 30-April 5 

April 2

  • End of Senegalese president’s term

April 4

  • Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly

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Top photo: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivers the keynote speech at the opening session of the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Elekes Andor / Wikimedia Commons)

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