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Forecast: Landslide buries thousands in Papua New Guinea, Mexico chooses new president, and Atlantic hurricane season begins

Satellite image of two hurricanes. One over the Atlantic Ocean east of the USA and the other over the Gulf of Mexico.

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.

More than 600 people are feared dead in Papua New Guinea, with as many as 2,000 missing following a massive landslide late last week. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Vivian Wang discuss the ongoing rescue efforts and the government’s response.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of May 31-June 7
A Look Ahead

May 31 – Shangri-la Dialogue starts in Singapore  

The annual Shangri-La defense summit will start Friday in Singapore with defense, military and business leaders from 40 countries.

What’s happened so far 
The leaders will join security experts and senior government officials for a three-day summit featuring bilateral meetings and panels on regional security. Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos will deliver this year’s keynote address. The security situation and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, defense and security at small-state level, U.S. strategic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, the war in Myanmar and China’s approach to global security will be the main topics of discussion.

The impact  
U.S. Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd is expected to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Dong Jun, on the sidelines of the conference amid ongoing efforts to improve bilateral relations. The event will take place following recent Chinese military drills around Taiwan (members’ link) in response to remarks made by new Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te demanding China ceases its intimidation strategy amid unification aspirations.

June 1 – Hurricane season begins  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting above-normal activity in the Atlantic this summer as the traditional hurricane season begins Saturday

What’s happened so far 
The 2023 season produced 20 named storms, the fourth-most since 1950 and well above the average of 14. That included one Category 5 system (Lee) and two Category 4 storms (Franklin and Idalia) that combined for 14 deaths. Idalia was the lone hurricane to make landfall in the mainland United States, hitting Florida as a Category 3 storm and causing an estimated $3 to 4 billion in damage, marking the lowest total since 2015. 

The impact 
NOAA predicts a range of between 17 and 25 named storms this year, with anywhere from eight to 13 becoming hurricanes. The first-named system typically forms around June 20, according to FOX Weather. 

What Factal will be watching for during Paris 2024
As with any major global event, Factal editors will be closely monitoring the potential for disruptions throughout the Olympic Games, amid concerns over everything from cyber attacks and terrorism to protests and extreme weather. Read more on our blog.

June 2 – OPEC+ meeting  

Members of OPEC+ will meet virtually Sunday to decide whether to increase output.

What’s happened so far 
The organization, led by Russia and Saudi Arabia and featuring some of the world’s largest hydrocarbons producers, will meet virtually over the weekend to set group-wide production levels for the second half of 2024. While initially planning to meet in-person in Vienna, the meeting was moved to virtual in a move that could be tied into questions surrounding the health of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. 

The impact 
Global oil prices are steady heading into the meeting with OPEC+ widely expected to maintain existing supply cuts. The production cuts, which began in November 2022, have reduced the group’s output of crude by nearly 6 million barrels per day, and the benchmark Brent crude price has hit a three-month low, leaving a cut extension likely

June 2 – Mexico elections  

Mexico will likely elect its first female president on Sunday with the assumption that it will be the current president’s hand-picked successor.

What’s happened so far 
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was elected in 2018. Two earlier failed presidential runs led him to form his own political party, MORENA, which has since become a powerhouse in the country. “Morenistas” control both houses of Congress and most of the country’s 32 governorships. Constitutionally unable to run himself, Lopez Obrador has endorsed Claudia Sheinbaum, the former mayor of Mexico City. She has led most polls with more than 50 percent of the vote.

The impact 
Sheinbaum’s main competitor, Xóchitl Gálvez, says Mexico’s democracy is at stake. If Sheinbaum wins and MORENA attains a supermajority in Congress, it could usher in many of AMLO’s proposed reforms, which include slashing the number of members of Congress, letting the public elect Supreme Court justices by popular vote, and dissolving independent agencies that maintain constitutional checks and balances.

June 3 – Hunter Biden gun trial  

President Joe Biden’s embattled son Hunter will go to court on a federal gun charge Monday for allegedly lying about his past drug use on a background check form. 

What’s happened so far 
While Hunter has been forthcoming about his past addictions to cocaine and alcohol, his playboy reputation has hurt the president politically. Hunter’s legal problems began in 2018 when the Justice Department began an investigation into alleged tax evasion. The investigation exposed that Hunter allegedly lied about being sober on a form to purchase a handgun at a Delaware gun store in 2018. Hunter seemed poised to take a plea deal for both the tax and gun charges in June of 2023, until the agreement was voided by a federal judge. 

The impact 
The trial could last up to two weeks as prosecutors attempt to prove that he used cocaine on the day he purchased the firearm. The judge overseeing the case has ruled that certain unflattering details of Hunter’s life will not be admissible in court, including his previous child-support cases, but the graphic contents of his lost laptop hard drive will be admissible in court. Biden’s initial plea deal would have given him two years of probation for both the tax and gun charges, but the president’s son now faces a maximum of 17 years behind bars.

June 4 – India election results  

The outcome of India’s general elections is expected on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) anticipated to win a third term.

What’s happened so far 
The staggered six-week election process began on April 19 and the seventh and final phase is scheduled for Saturday. More than 8,000 candidates are contesting seats in the largest election in the world which has seen nearly 1 billion voters head to the polls, in some cases amid a heatwave. 

The impact 
The BJP has been accused of stoking communal tensions through its Hindu-nationalist rhetoric. Although Modi and his party are expected to retain power, paving his way for more than a decade at the helm, it remains to be seen whether the results will show a landslide victory as predicted by the party. If Modi expands his control to gain supermajority in Parliament, there is the risk he could be changing India’s constitution to the detriment of its minorities. India’s economic policy and trajectory, however, are unlikely to change focus, regardless of which party comes into power.

June 6 – European elections  

Voters across the European Union’s 27 member countries will go to the polls for a four-day period starting Thursday to elect the 720 members of the next European Parliament, setting the course for the future of the bloc.

What’s happened so far 
The previous election, held in 2019, saw almost 200 million voters cast their ballots, with the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) grouping assuming the most seats in the European Parliament, followed by the center-left S&D group. Since then, the United Kingdom has left the bloc, with its seats being redistributed among the other member states. While the economy and immigration remain important to voters, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed security to the forefront, with polling suggesting it’s now the primary issue in a number of countries, including Denmark, Finland and Lithuania.

The impact 
Far-right leaders, including Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, touted the upcoming poll as a potential landmark moment, predicting the far-right could gain political force across the EU. Opinion polls show the EPP remaining the largest party, trailed by the S&D group, in a repeat of 2019, but with a number of smaller groupings fighting for third and fourth place. A lack of a clear centrist majority might compel European leaders to work with the far-right, further increasing their power. But there have been setbacks for the far-right with Germany’s AfD, which was expelled from the Identity & Democracy umbrella group over comments made by its lead candidate.

What Else Matters

People, including children, on an urban street engaged in a communal cooking or food distribution activity.
Displaced Palestinians in Rafah’s Al-Shaboura neighborhood in January 2024. (Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières)

Events in Rafah, Gaza Strip 

A deadly Israeli strike on a tent camp in western Rafah in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night killed at least 45 people and injured approximately 250 others, according to Palestinian health officials. Palestinian emergency services say it took hours to extinguish the large fire that broke out in the immediate aftermath of the strike on the densely populated area housing an estimated 100,000 displaced people. On Monday, at least one Egyptian soldier was killed in a shooting along the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the Palestinian side of which is controlled by Israel. Both sides are continuing to investigate the incident. These events come amid a continuing Israeli ground invasion approaching central areas of Rafah.

Watch for: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Rafah strike a “tragic mishap” and promised an investigation into the incident, with the army claiming the target two Hamas operatives allegedly sheltering in the area. These investigations rarely get released to the public, with the Israeli government citing security reasons. The strike comes amid widespread condemnation from across the world, including top UN officials and bodies like the International Court of Justice. which, two days prior, had ordered Israel to “immediately halt” its offensive in Rafah

Papua New Guinea landslide

A massive landslide engulfed several villages in a remote area of Papua New Guinea’s Enga province last Friday, burying hundreds, possibly thousands, of people under up to 26 feet of soil and debris. Just six bodies have been recovered so far, but the death toll is expected to be high, with a UN agency warning that remaining survivors are very unlikely. Emergency responders face difficult terrain and security concerns, with the landslide cutting off the area’s only major highway, and ongoing tribal clashes from long-standing local feuds hampering access.

Watch for: The landslide site remains dangerous, destabilized by recent rain and streams of water beneath the debris and by desperate attempts to dig through the rubble for bodies and survivors. With a possible second landslide looming, a UN official estimates around 8,000 people may need to be evacuated from nearby areas. Authorities also fear a potential disease outbreak may arise, due to the combination of decaying bodies and flowing water underneath the landslide.

Memorial Day weekend storms across the United States 

At least 23 people were killed and hundreds of buildings damaged as severe weather moved through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama and Kentucky over the holiday weekend. The weather system left hundreds of thousands of residents without power and upended operations at several major airports during a peak travel period. A tornado that killed seven people in Valley View, Texas, was the deadliest in the state in nearly a decade, while parts of Kentucky still rebuilding from a 2021 tornado outbreak again found themselves in the direct path of the storms.  

Watch for: Officials have warned that electric service may take days to restore in the Dallas area, claiming the damage would require a “complete reconstruction” in some places, while President Joe Biden has directed federal agencies to provide support to impacted communities. May and June are typically considered to be the peak of tornado season, with this year’s thought to be the most active since 2017.  

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

May 31-June 7 

May 31

  • India monsoon rains arrive
  • Shangri-La Dialogue begins

June 1

  • UEFA Champions League final
  • OPEC+ meeting
  • Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins

June 2 

  • Mexico elections

June 3

  • Hunter Biden trial begins
  • Anthony Fauci will testify before the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic 

June 4

  • Results announced for India’s general election
  • Spain’s Queen Letizia visits Guatemala

June 6

  • European elections

June 7

  • Chad presidential elections results announced
  • Pakistan federal budget announced

June 8-14 

June 9

  • Bulgaria election

June 10 

  • Iraq’s Kurdistan region holds parliamentary elections

June 14

  • Euro 2024 in Germany

June 15-21 

June 15

  • Ukraine draft peace proposal summit in Switzerland

June 18

  • Thailand’s former Prime Minister Shinawatra faces charges over monarchy insults

June 22-28 

June 22

  • Chad presidential elections second round

June 26 

  • Possible last day of water from Mexico City’s Cutzamala system
  • RIMPAC exercise around Hawaiian Islands

June 27

  • CNN Biden-Trump electoral debate

June 28

  • Iran presidential election

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Top photo: NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite captured Hurricane Idalia approaching the west coast of Florida while Hurricane Franklin churned in the Atlantic Ocean on August 29, 2023. (Photo: NOAA)

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