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Forecast: Kenyan president withdraws proposed tax hikes, peace talks in Colombia, and elections in France and the U.K.

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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.

Protests in Kenya against a tax hike proposal took a violent turn this week when police opened fire as crowds stormed the parliament. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jaime Calle Moreno discuss the violence’s inconsistent death toll and the prospect for more demonstrations despite President Ruto withdrawing the controversial plan.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of June 28-July 5
A Look Ahead

June 29 – Pilgrims start Amarnath Yatra to Pahalgam, Jammu and Kashmir

Thousands of Hindu pilgrims will head to Pahalgam, Jammu and Kashmir, on Saturday for the start of the annual Amarnath Yatra.

What’s happened so far 
The 45-day pilgrimage will see devotees make an arduous 28-mile journey from Pahalgam to the Amarnath Cave, where an ice stalagmite believed to be a manifestation of Hindu god Shiva is formed. Attendance is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands with last year drawing more than 400,000 people to the pilgrimage. 

The impact 
While pilgrims already see unpredictable weather conditions while traveling on rough terrain and steep inclines, an uptick in militancy, including a fatal attack on pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district, has raised additional concerns. Local authorities have tightened security and put added measures in place to ensure safety for the attendees. 

June 29 – Round of FARC talks in Colombia to end  

Colombian government representatives are holding a round of peace talks (Factal members’ link) with FARC’s Segunda Marquetalia dissident group until Saturday.

What’s happened so far 
The negotiating teams were officially installed in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday, including FARC leader Iván Marquez, after rumors of his death were refuted in May. The first round of peace talks counts Cuba, Norway and Venezuela as international guarantors, and UN and Catholic Church representatives as accompanying institutions. During the five days, the parties will establish specific topics of discussion, negotiation protocols and initial measures to advance de-escalation of the conflict.  

The impact 
Both parties have expressed their will to build mutual trust during the negotiating process. Segunda Marquetalia representatives are aiming to obtain a peace agreement that provides greater guarantees for demobilized dissidents than that of 2016, which the group withdrew from over claims of violations by the previous Colombian executive. Dissident leaders have also expressed wishes to transition into the country’s political life. Negotiators face a challenge to define the future judicial treatment of repeat offenders such as Márquez, who are banned from obtaining further legal benefits after breaking the 2016 peace agreement. 

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 Games, amid concerns over everything from cyber attacks and terrorism to protests and extreme weather. Read more on our blog.

June 29 – Mauritania general elections  

Mauritania’s fledgling democracy approaches another crucial milestone during elections on Saturday.

What’s happened so far 
Incumbent Mohamed Ould Ghazouani is expected to retain the office he gained in 2019 during the country’s first peaceful transfer of power, when he assumed the presidency and succeeded his mentor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, following an election considered free and fair by monitorsMultiple observers have noted incremental steps toward improving equality and freedom in the country under Ghazouani, crediting his administration with efforts to shore up the right to political opposition and increase representation for traditionally-discriminated-against groups in the country. However, there remain serious concerns about corruptionracial discriminationmodern slavery, abuses of power, and the repression of speech and protest based on blasphemy, disinformation and defamation laws, as well as electoral irregularities. Internationally, Mauritania’s relative stability has made it an attractive partner for the EU, the United States, and China alike, all of whom Ghazouani has worked with – especially with the forthcoming development of abundant natural gas reserves.

The impact 
Ghazouani’s El Insaf party won a large majority in recent parliamentary elections, and with multiple other candidates splitting the remainder of the vote share, he remains the favorite. Observers of the country going forward will be keen to see if a second-term Ghazouani-led Mauritania can continue to walk the arduous, narrow path towards liberalization and democratization that has seen its Freedom House index climb from 32 to 39 points out of 100 in five years. It also remains to be seen if Ghazouani can continue his balancing act between the various powers interested in his increasingly important nation.

June 30 – French National Assembly elections  

French President Emmanuel Macron’s shocking decision to call a legislative election set for Sunday could result in major gains for the country’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party.

What’s happened so far 
June 9’s European Parliament elections saw the nativist RN make major gains, while Macron’s own pro-Europe and centrist Besoin de Europe lost 10 out of the 81 total seats. Faced with the defeat, Macron quickly dissolved a legislature sympathetic to his agenda on the grounds of democracy and listening to the electorate. While Macron himself will remain in office until 2027, French voters will elect a new body of 577 National Assembly deputies, who indirectly choose the prime minister. Constituencies where no candidate wins a clear majority will hold a second round of voting on July 7.  

The impact 
Most polling suggests Macron’s Ensemble coalition will lose control of the National Assembly, sitting third behind the RN and the New Popular Front, an alliance of leftist parties. If RN outperforms its polling, the party could form a majority in the National Assembly, making 28-year-old leader Jordan Bardella the next prime minister. More likely is a scenario where either RN or the New Popular Front win a plurality of seats and are forced to form a coalition with a lesser party, such as the conservative Les Républicains. RN has campaigned on cutting back immigration, lowering taxes, and pulling away from France’s commitments to the EU and NATO.

June 30 – EU to end military mission to Niger  

The European Union on Sunday will end its military partnership with Niger, the now junta-run West African nation, citing its “grave political situation.”

What’s happened so far 
The decision by the EU to pull out dozens of its soldiers by June came amid deteriorating relationships between Niger and the West. The country has long been an important actor contributing to the collective efforts of Western powers in fighting against jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region. But following the July 2023 coup, the ruling junta government started to push Western powers out of the country. Former-colonial power France withdrew its troops late last year, ending its decade-long military mission in the region. The United States also announced withdrawal of its forces by mid-September, after a series of negotiations failed, with Niger’s junta leader accusing the United States of “telling them how to rule their country.”

The impact 
As Niger’s junta government severs ties with Western countries, it has turned to Russia for assistance in fighting the growing insecurity, leading analysts to worry that the alliance will encourage the junta to further delay the return to civilian rule. With its key air base gone, the United States is also reported to be looking for a new partner in the region to preserve its military presence. Whether the West, including the EU, can maintain its influence and strengthen efforts in regional stability remains unclear.

July 4 – U.K. general election  

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s political career hangs in the balance when voters make their choice in elections next Thursday.

What’s happened so far 
Sunak needed to call for elections by December, within five years of the 2019 election that saw Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party win in a landslide. Sunak took office in October 2022 after Liz Truss, who succeeded Johnson following the Partygate scandal, stepped down on her 50th day in office, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in British history. Many experts thought Sunak would wait to call elections until the economy showed signs of improving, but that has not happened to a significant degree. 

The impact 
Most analysts believe Sunak and the Conservative Party will lose. Polls show Labour with a huge lead that would likely put Keir Starmer into 10 Downing Street and end 14 years of Conservative rule. He has campaigned on “rebuilding” the post-Brexit economy and National Health Service as well as stopping Tory scandals. But, if the unlikely does happen, Sunak has pledged to bring back mandatory national service, which could lead to 18-year-olds choosing between going into the armed forces or volunteering in their community.

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What Else Matters

Street with uniformed police officers in protective gear, armored vehicles, and smoke in the background.
At least 22 people died Tuesday during protests outside Kenya’s parliament building in central Nairobi. (Photo: Capital FM Kenya / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0)

Anti-government protests in Kenya 

Kenyan President William Ruto withdrew a controversial finance bill on Wednesday, one day after anti-government protests in several cities came to a climax, with hundreds of protesters storming the parliament building in central Nairobi as riot police deployed tear gas, water cannons and live gunfire. Protests started after members of parliament had approved the third reading of the bill, which was primarily set to raise taxes on common goods. Protests have been underway since June 18 not only in Nairobi, but also in Nakuru, Mombasa and Eldoret, largely led by young demonstrators. At least 22 people died Tuesday alone, with hundreds more injured due to the police response to the parliament storming, as well as the razing of several county government buildings elsewhere. 

Watch for: Even after the bill’s withdrawal, calls for demonstrations continue, with more anti-government protests potentially on the horizon. Kenya’s defense ministry touted the deployment of the country’s military to assist in protest dispersal, and there is a possibility of a continued heavy response to large-scale demonstrations. It is also unclear how Kenya’s politicians will respond to the withdrawal of the bill, after President Ruto called for austerity across government

Attacks on churches and synagogues in Russia’s Dagestan 

On Sunday evening, two groups of unidentified gunmen targeted synagogues and churches in apparent coordinated attacks in the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent in Russia’s Dagestan Republic. In Derbent, gunmen stormed an Orthodox church, murdered a priest and set fire to a synagogue. In Makhachkala, armed men entered a church and tried to set fire to an icon before opening fire on police. They then attacked a police checkpoint near a synagogue. Russian state media reports at least 21 people were killed, including 16 police officers. Five gunmen were also killed. Russia’s Investigative Committee has classified the events as a terrorist attack and has opened an investigation. While there has been no official claim of responsibility for the attacks, Islamic State Khorasan released a statement praising the attack as being carried out by Islamic State members in the Caucuses. Meanwhile, Russian state news and officials have made statements suggesting the involvement of Ukraine and the West in the attacks. 

Watch for: Since the Crocus City Hall attack in Moscow in March, there have been reports of increased activity by Islamic State’s Caucasus branch Vilayat Kavkaz, calling for recruitment and promising new attacks in Russia. The second major terror attack since the beginning of the year in the country highlights ongoing problems with extremist violence and raises questions over whether security agencies still have the resources to combat the growing risk of extremism at home on the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

June 28-July 5 

June 28

  • Iran presidential election

June 29

  • Mauritania elections
  • Round of FARC talks in Colombia to end
  • Pilgrimage to Amarnath Yatra in Pahalgam, Jammu and Kashmir starts

June 30

  • Deadline for Pakistan to pass necessary legislation to receive IMF loan
  • EU to end military mission to Niger
  • NYC Pride march
  • WSJ reporter pre-trial detention in Moscow expires
  • First round of French National Assembly elections

July 1

  • China to restrict exports on aviation, aerospace equipment
  • Uber, Lyft services set to leave Minneapolis

July 2

  • Russian detention of U.S. soldier expires 

July 4

  • UK general election

July 6-12

July 7

  • Second round of French National Assembly elections 

July 9

  • NATO Summit in Washington, D.C.

July 11

  • Trump sentencing

July 13-19 

July 14 

  • Arrival of the Olympic flame in Paris
  • Copa América Final in Miami Gardens, Fla.

July 15

  • Rwanda general elections
  • Republican National Convention in Milwaukee

July 16

  • 2024 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

July 18

  • Ukrainian government to start notifying citizens for conscription

July 20-26 

July 20

  • Colombia installs new National Congress

July 24

  • Israeli PM Netanyahu to address joint session of U.S. Congress

July 26

  • 2024 Summer Olympics begin in Paris

Top photo: Pilgrims endure a tough terrain en route the holy Amarnath Cave (By Nittin sain – Photo taken by Author while travelling to the Amarnath Cave, CC BY 3.0)

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