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Forecast: U.S. citizens allegedly involved in failed DR Congo coup, French president visits Germany, and South Africa holds elections

People waving South African flags at an outdoor event, with a woman wearing a sash that reads “2024 MISS IMMIGRANT USA.”

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.

An attempted coup d’état in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last weekend left at least three people dead, including opposition figure Christian Malanga. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Ahmed Namatalla discuss the foiled attempt and the accusations by the Congolese army alleging the involvement of three U.S. citizens.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of May 24-31
A Look Ahead

May 26 – Lithuanian election runoff  

Lithuania will hold the second round of its presidential elections Sunday.

What’s happened so far  
Incumbent President Gitanas Nauseda won in the first round of voting, but fell just short of the 50 percent threshold to win outright, well ahead of Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, who he will face off against in the runoff. Lithuania’s presidency has a semi-executive role with significant sway over setting foreign policy as the head of state.

The impact 
Both candidates largely overlap in the space of foreign policy, which is dominated in Lithuania by Russia’s looming eastward presence and a desire to ingrain themselves with NATO at all cost. Differences do exist, however, notably around Nauseda’s opposition to same-sex partnerships, which has become one of the main domestic issues in Lithuania with parliament considering legislation that would legalize same-sex unions.

May 26 – Macron visits Germany  

Starting Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron will pay the first state visit of a French head of state to Germany in 24 years.

What’s happened so far 
The visit originally scheduled for July 2023 was postponed due to riots in France over the fatal police shooting of Nahel Merzouk. The three-day visit will include events to commemorate the foundation of post-WWII West Germany and the end of Communist rule in East Germany, the celebration of a Franco-German council of ministers in Meseberg and peace prize award for the French president in Muenster. 

The impact 
The visit aims to project an image of close cooperation between both countries amid reports of disagreements between Scholz and Macron on matters like defense, nuclear energy policies and trade. Macron also seeks to reinforce pro-European values through official events and speeches during his visit amid growing Eurosceptic sentiments among French voters ahead of the EU parliament elections in June.

May 26 – Japan, China and South Korea hold two-day summit in Seoul  

Japan, China and South Korea will hold a two-day summit in Seoul beginning Sunday.

What’s happened so far 
The summit will revive trilateral cooperation between the three countries, which has been stalled since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The leaders are expected to talk through issues discussed by their foreign ministers in November last year, including economy, trade, security and public health, among others. 

The impact 
A lot has changed in the multi-year gap between summits. North Korea has stepped up on its nuclear weapons tests and China has intensified its activities in the South and East China seas. The summit also gives China a chance to strengthen its relations with Japan and South Korea, both of which enjoy strong ties with the United States. 

May 29 – South Africa general elections  

South Africa will vote Wednesday in a closely-watched contest as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) hopes to hold on to power as in the country’s seventh fully democratic election since 1994.

What’s happened so far 
The ruling ANC party, headed by President Cyril Ramaphosa is under growing pressure from South Africans who are dissatisfied with economic inequality, power outages and corruption. South Africa is Africa’s largest economy but remains plagued by frequent power outages with residents frequently enduring planned cuts known as  “loadshedding” with economic conditions exacerbated by an unemployment rate that has risen to 32 percent. The main opposition’s Democratic Alliance has floated the idea of privatization as a way of solving some of the country’s economic problems and hopes to peel off some voters by promising to tackle unemployment.

The impact 
The ANC has held power since the first democratic post-apartheid election in 1994 but risks dropping below 50 percent of the vote, meaning it may not secure a majority in the country’s parliament. Opinion polling in recent weeks has shown an increase in support for the party, meaning it might only need a small coalition partner to govern or could defy expectation and win an outright majority. South Africa’s Parliament is expected to pick the country’s president, who acts as both head of state and head of government, on the first day of its new session with the head of the majority party expected to take office.

May 31 – Monsoon season begins in southern India 

India’s seasonal monsoon rains are expected to arrive on the country’s southern tip on Friday.

What’s happened so far 
2023’s El Niño-affected monsoon season brought approximately 5 percent less rain than an average year, hurting crop yields and boosting inflation across India. Despite this, more than 600 people were killed between June and September, with the worst damage seen in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. India’s massive agricultural sector relies heavily on a strong monsoon season, as nearly half of the country’s crops are grown without irrigation. This year’s season has already begun in India’s Nicobar Islands archipelago, and the system will reach the far southern tip of Kerala and Tamil Nadu slightly early before moving northwest across the subcontinent.

The impact 
Indian meteorologists are projecting 2024’s monsoon season to bring more rain than a typical year as La Niña conditions are expected to develop in the Pacific Ocean. Other factors signaling greater rainfall include a strong temperature delta between the western and eastern Indian Ocean and low snow cover in the northern hemisphere. Rainfall totals will differ across the country, with lower-than-average precipitation projected for the northeastern states.

What Else Matters

Iran president death

On Sunday, Iranian state media reported that a “massive” search and rescue operation was underway after a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi was forced to make a hard landing in the country’s East Azerbaijan province. The operations were hampered by dense fog and severe weather conditions, with rescuers taking hours to reach the crash site. Iranian authorities subsequently confirmed Monday morning that all passengers, including Raisi, the Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and multiple other officials were killed in the incident.

Watch for: According to the Iranian constitution, the first Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will act as interim president and will lead the Special Council tasked with coordinating snap elections within 50 days, currently set for July 8. Although there is no clear frontrunner expected to take Raisi’s place in the presidency, analysts believe the supreme leader’s wish for a continuity of the conservative faction will likely give rise to another hard-liner president. Raisi was a likely successor to replace current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, possibly clearing the way for the Supreme Leader’s son Mojtaba as a logical replacement. In terms of foreign policy, Tehran’s position in the world is not likely to change with new leadership given that it is the supreme leader, at the end of the day, who dictates and sets foreign policy for the country.

Heatwave and power crisis in Mexico 

Half of Mexico’s regions have been placed under yellow or orange alert for a new heatwave set to hit the country, the third of its kind in the first half of 2024. Across 24 regions, temperatures could surpass 113°F (45°C), including in Mexico City, with authorities predicting the heatwave is set to last around 10 days. Since March, 26 people have died from heat-related incidents and scorching temperatures have affected large populations of flora and fauna. Mexico’s power grid operator declared a state of emergency earlier this month following several national blackouts since early May, with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stating that electrical supply at times cannot meet the national demand.

Watch for: Towns and cities will inevitably feel the effect of extreme temperatures, and both hospitalizations and deaths are likely to occur across the different regions of Mexico under the heatwave alert. The continued blackouts from the inability of Mexico’s power grid to meet demand could worsen with a new heatwave on the horizon. 

DR Congo coup attempt 

Security forces in DR Congo thwarted a coup attempt in the early hours of May 19, after an exchange of gunfire with a small group of men that briefly entered a presidential palace in Kinshasa. President Felix Tshisekedi was not at the palace targeted by the attack.

Watch for: According to the army, a prominent Tshisekedi supporter and lawmaker was killed in an attack by the men on his residence close to the palace. In addition, the homes of the prime minister and defense minister were allegedly attacked, though the men were not harmed. At least three of the attackers are U.S. citizens. The attack came as Tshisekedi struggles to quell the resurgence of militant violence in the country’s eastern region and form a coalition government to tackle insecurity and economic decline, five months after winning a disputed reelection.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

May 24-31 

May 25

  • Boeing launch

May 26

  • Japan, China and South Korea plan a two-day summit in Seoul
  • Lithuanian president and PM election runoff 
  • Macron to make state visit to Germany

May 29

  • South Africa general elections

May 31

  • India monsoon rains arrive

June 1-7 

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

  • Trial resumes over alleged medical negligence in death of former Argentine soccer player Maradona
  • Results announced for India’s general election

June 6

  • European elections

June 7

  • Chad presidential elections results announced

June 8-14 

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

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