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Forecast: Floods force evacuations in Russia and Kazakhstan, DOJ meets families of victims of Boeing 737 MAX crashes, and Elon Musk meets India’s PM

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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.

Major flooding in northern Kazakhstan and southern Russia has inundated cities and forced more than 125,000 people to evacuate. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Alex Moore discuss the scope of the flooding and the subsequent economic risks.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of April 19-26
A Look Ahead

April 21 – Ecuador referendum  

Ecuadorians will vote Sunday on a 11-question constitutional referendum.

What’s happened so far 
The vote, which President Daniel Noboa announced in January, will contain 11 questions on national security, the justice system, migration and employment. The first five questions will survey possible constitutional reforms, while the other six will propose legislative changes not related to the constitution approved in 2008 by Rafael Correa’s government. More than 13 million people are eligible to vote in the popular consultation. Noboa’s goal is to obtain citizen support to enhance the country’s security policies amid an ongoing crime crisis (members’ link) that led to his declaration of a state of “internal armed conflict” in January.

The impact 
The main objective of the government is to grant the armed forces a permanent role in the fight against organized crime, which would prevent the need to declare temporary states of exception in periods of high criminal activity. The militarization of jails and tougher gun laws are also among security proposals. With the economic proposals, the president seeks to adjust work contracts to allow hourly positions. Results are expected to be announced at 7 p.m. local time on Sunday, according to the National Electoral Council.

April 21 – Maldives parliamentary elections  

On Sunday, almost 300,000 registered voters will head to booths to vote on the parliamentary elections of the Maldives. 

What’s happened so far 
Initially scheduled for mid-March, the elections were postponed to Sunday to avoid it falling during the month of Ramadan. Incumbent President Mohammed Muizzu’s Progressive Congress Coalition party will be aiming to secure a large part of the 93 seats up for grabs in the People’s Majlis legislative body.

The impact 
These parliamentary elections will test the population’s support for the nationalist and sovereign politics Muizzu has been touting. The People Majli has quite a strong legislative power over presidential executive decisions, which makes this Sunday an important one. 

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April 21 – Basque regional election  

Voters in Spain’s Basque Country will cast their ballots Sunday in elections for the region’s devolved parliament.

What’s happened so far 
The last regional election, held in 2020, saw pro-Basque parties dominate the vote share and take a majority of seats in the single-chamber legislature. Opinion polls show the far-left separatist EH Bildu party taking the lead, narrowly edging ahead of their Basque Nationalist Party rivals, though both would fall well short of a majority of votes.

The impact 
The 1.7 million people eligible to vote will cast their ballots with 75 seats in the region’s parliament up for grabs, which will be allocated using the D’Hondt method of proportional representation. Spain’s new minority coalition government has a number of issues to navigate, including how it deals with regional divides within the country — parliament recently allowed Basque as well as Catalan and Galician to be used by legislators.

April 22 – Iranian President Raisi visits Pakistan  

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will make a state visit to Pakistan on Monday, the first since relations between the two countries suffered a setback earlier in 2024.

What’s happened so far 
Iran and Pakistan exchanged volleys of missiles across their shared border back in January, triggering a diplomatic crisis which saw both countries withdraw their ambassadors. Relations were subsequently restored and have continued to improve since, with Iran agreeing to release Pakistani nationals aboard a seized container ship on Monday thanks to the two nations’ “brotherly ties.” 

The impact 
The volley of missiles and drones Iran fired toward Israel several days ago has pushed the country out into the cold diplomatically, and with Western officials discussing applying further sanctions, Iran will be seeking to shore up its political partnerships where possible in an attempt to mitigate the effects. Iran and Pakistan have an established trade relationship and share an under-construction gas pipeline. Local media reports suggest the two nations will seek to further deepen those ties during Raisi’s visit, with the possibility of a free trade agreement on the cards.

April 22 – Elon Musk to meet with Indian PM Modi  

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is expected to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India as early as Monday, just as the country enters two-month-long general elections.

What’s happened so far 
Musk and Modi have been in a months-long business courtship, meeting last June during Modi’s visit to the US, presumably to discuss expanding Musk’s investments in India. Most recently, India lowered import taxes on some electric vehicles produced by makers that commit to start domestic manufacturing and invest at least $500 million, paving the way for Tesla to enter the Indian market.

The impact 
Reuters sources said Musk is likely to make an announcement about future investments in India during his visit, including a potential Tesla factory, though details about the trip have not been made public. Musk will also meet with Indian space companies. If Musk finalizes his business plans in India, it could bolster Modi’s credentials in attracting deals and foreign investment amid national elections.

April 24 – DOJ meets with Boeing crash families

The U.S. Justice Department will meet Wednesday with families of victims of Boeing 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 as the government weighs whether to seek a criminal case against the airplane manufacturer. 

What’s happened so far 
The Justice Department is currently considering whether a January incident in which a plug door blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight in the skies over Portland, Ore., constitutes a breach of a 2021 settlement that shielded Boeing from criminal prosecution over a fraud conspiracy charge. Critics have argued that the settlement, which expired two days after the plug door incident, has failed to hold the company accountable and that Boeing has not seriously followed through on its safety commitments.

The impact 
The DOJ has until July 7 to decide on pursuing a case on if the company violated the terms of its MAX settlement, which included promises to strengthen its compliance program.

April 25 – FCC to vote to restore net neutrality rules

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will likely bring back rules from former President Barack Obama’s administration on Thursday that state internet providers shouldn’t throttle or block web traffic.

What’s happened so far 
In 2015, the FCC voted for regulations that classified internet service providers as “common carriers,” which made them subject to more oversight. The FCC used these rules to stop ISPs from slowing down or blocking content of its own choosing. The FCC then repealed those rules in 2017 under Ajit Pai, who was appointed chairman by then-President Donald Trump. Pai received heavy scrutiny for the decision, which led to large protests and even death threats. Some states introduced their own laws to protect net neutrality, which have held up in court. Pai resigned on the first day of Joe Biden’s presidency, leading to a Democratic majority on the panel.

The impact 
FCC officials say new oversight will better protect customers, such as forcing ISPs to get consent before they sell consumer data. It’s unclear, however, when this will take effect, especially if the industry sues the FCC over the designation. If that gets held up in court, it may never see the light of day if Trump is re-elected.

What Else Matters

A group of people are seen in a flooded street, with one individual wearing a black hat and blue jacket standing out prominently. The scene also includes a man in a life jacket, a person in a boat with a dog in the water, and another person sitting on a bench with a cat. The flooded area is navigated by a boat, with multiple individuals engaging with the waterlogged environment. The colors of the scene are primarily muted tones like gray, black, and white, creating a somber and serious atmosphere. The image captures the chaos and resilience of individuals in the face of natural disasters.
Emergency authorities worked to rescue residents stranded by flooding on April 6 in Ovchinny, Russia. (Photo: City of Orenburg)

Mass evacuations after floods in Russia and Kazakhstan

More than 125,000 people have been forced to evacuate since the beginning of April in northern Kazakhstan and Russia’s southern Urals due to severe flooding prompted by heavy rains and fast-melting snowfall. The flooding has totally inundated multiple cities, including Russia’s Orsk and Orenburg and Kazakhstan’s Petropavlovsk. Significant flooding has also begun to impact Russia’s Kurgan, Tyumen and Buryatia regions, extending the geographic zone impacted deep into Russia’s Far East

Watch for: The flooding is far from over, with Kazakh authorities saying peak flood levels are expected to impact the city of Petropavlovsk by the end of this week. Long-term economic impacts are worth monitoring as the Ural flows through the hub of Kazakhstan’s massive oil industry in Atyrau. While oil transportation operations have been maintained here, Russia was forced to shut down its refinery in Orsk. On the Russian side, the floods have also occurred in some key wheat producing areas of the world’s largest supplier. 

Israel-Iran tensions

Last weekend, Iran launched more than 300 projectiles toward Israel, prompting several neighboring countries to close their airspaces. U.S., U.K. and Jordanian forces shot down multiple cruise and ballistic missiles in the region, and the Israeli military said 99 percent of the launches were intercepted, resulting in minor damage to the country’s Nevatim air base and leaving one person injured. Shortly after announcing the launch, Tehran said the operation was “over” and that it had been done in retaliation for the April 1 suspected Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria, which killed more than a dozen people including a senior IRGC Quds Force Commander.

Watch for: Although the attack resulted in minimum damage, the incident marked the first time Iran directly targeted Israel on its soil after decades of simmering tensions between the two countries. Analysts suggest that the attack appears to have been a calculated and measured response aimed for domestic consumption as Iran, whose government is facing criticism over its economic situation and its lack of direct involvement with regards to Gaza. Israel’s War Cabinet has met on numerous occasions since then as the world awaits the much-anticipated response on Iran and just how far Israel is willing to strike back.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

April 20-26

April 20

  • Togo legislative elections
  • Somalia holds National Consultative Council

April 21

  • Basque regional election
  • Ecuador referendum
  • Maldives parliamentary elections

April 22

  • Basque regional election
  • Elon Musk meets with India PM
  • Iranian President visits Pakistan

April 24

  • Justice Department to meet with: Boeing crash families

April 25

  • Supreme Court hears Trump criminal immunity argument
  • FCC to vote to restore net neutrality rules

April 27-May 3

April 27 

  • Turkey’s IYI party elective congress
  • Second item under this day
  • Third item

April 27 

  • Togo legislative and regional elections

May 2

  • UK’s Blackpool South constituency by-election

May 4-10 

May 5

  • Panamanian general election
  • Final rehearsal of Victory Parade in Russia

May 6

  • Met Gala in New York City
  • Criminal trial of US Senator Menendez
  • First round of Chad presidential election

May 8

  • Arrival of the Olympic flame in Marseilles
  • Parliamentary and presidential elections in North Macedonia

May 9

  • Erdogan-Biden meeting at the White House

May 10

  • Deadline for India to withdraw all troops from Maldives
  • Trump will stand trial in the classified documents case in Miami

May 11-17

May 12

  • Catalan regional election

May 15

  • Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to step down, Lawrence Wong to be sworn in

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Top photo: An Alaska Airlines 737MAX9 on final for LAX’s runway 25L on a crew training flight in February 2021. (Photo: Sam Almo-Milkin / Wikimedia Commons)

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