Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Sophie Perryer discuss the recent attack on a military base in central Mali, plus more on Singapore and China holding naval drills, the Israeli knesset returning from recess, Labor Day in France and local elections starting in the United Kingdom.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Vivian Wang, Joe Veyera, Jess Fino, David Wyllie and Sophie Perryer. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is April 27.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got Singapore and China holding naval drills, the Israeli knesset returning from recess, Labor Day in France, local elections starting in the United Kingdom and a look at the military base attack in Mali.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you’ll find a link to in the show notes.
Singapore-China joint naval drills
Information compiled by Vivian Wang
JIMMY: Singapore and China will hold joint naval drills over four days starting Friday.
Those navies held smaller-scale exercises in 2021 at the southern tip of the South China Sea.
Those exercises followed a 2019 upgrade to a bilateral defense agreement that included upsizing drills between the countries’ armies, navies and air forces.
Now, neither country has confirmed exactly where the exercises will be held.
That said, Chinese state media has reported that its navy will stay in Singapore from late April until early May, when officials will attend a maritime defense exhibition known as IMDEX Asia.
Of course, the drills come amid a period of heightened tensions between the United States and China in the region, as both countries attempt to strengthen their influence in the disputed South China Sea.
Israeli Knesset returns
Information compiled by Joe Veyera
JIMMY: Israeli lawmakers will reconvene in Jerusalem on Sunday following a month-long recess for Passover.
And as they return, the controversial proposed overhaul to Israel’s judicial system looms in the summer session.
The plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to weaken the Supreme Court has triggered widespread protests and condemnation. That forced him to delay the reform package in hopes of reaching a compromise.
Proponents claim the changes are necessary to rein in an activist judiciary, while critics say the efforts would give too much power to the governing right-wing coalition at the expense of the existing system of checks and balances.
Now, demonstrations are likely to continue, with opponents calling for the judicial reform proposal to be scrapped entirely.
Earlier protests and an unprecedented nationwide strike brought the country to a near standstill in late March, a potential signifier of things to come should parliament OK the plan.
Labor Day in France
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: Monday is Labor Day in France. And the country will see a new day of nationwide mobilization against the controversial pension reform.
It will be the first national strike since the reform passed into law.
Ahead of Labor Day, fresh demonstrations have been taking place in what unions called a “little warm-up before May 1."
According to labor unions, on April 20 some 5,000 demonstrators marched in Rennes against the pension reform, which came into law last month despite nationwide protests and fierce opposition by other political parties.
Now, French President Emmanuel Macron enacted the pension-law change, raising retirement age to 64 via official gazette last month, with the law expected to come into effect by the start of September.
Unions have pledged to continue to take to the streets and have invited all workers, youth and retirees to join en masse on Labor Day, with large marches expected to take place across multiple cities.
U.K. local elections
Information compiled by David Wyllie
JIMMY: Voters across England will go to the polls next Thursday in a series of local elections that could be considered a key measure of support for the country’s political parties.
In fact, with 8,000 seats across 230 councils in England as well as a number of mayoral seats in play, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Conservative Party face their first electoral test since he took office last year.
It’s also a major test for the Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer.
They’ll be hoping for a strong showing to back up their recent historically high poll numbers and as they try to sell themselves as a party of government.
Liberal Democrat candidates will also look to harness local issues and apathy for the two larger parties in an effort to garner support.
Still, the Conservatives have the most to lose as they’re defending more seats than Labour and the Liberal Dems combined.
Now, with a general election as far as 18 months away, the local elections are not an immediate danger to either party leader.
However, election day might highlight another problem, as voters in England will have to show photo ID at their polling station for the first time.
That move, criticized by rights groups, may lead to those without ID being unable to vote.
Starting in October, this requirement will also apply to U.K. general elections.
Mali military base attack
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the recent attack on a military base in Mali. For more on that we've got Factal Senior Editor Sophie Perryer.
JIMMY: Hello, Sophie.
SOPHIE: Hey Jimmy, nice to see you.
JIMMY: You too. I'm sure glad you're here. I saw reports of complex attacks in central Mali the other day and was hoping you could get our listeners caught up on what exactly went down?
SOPHIE: Absolutely. So a “complex attack” is what the Malian government called these events, which comprised several different incidents on Saturday the 22nd of April. Firstly, at least 10 civilians were killed in attacks by unidentified militants on a military base and an airport in Sevare in the central Malian region of Mopti. Now, separately, the Malian military claims to have killed dozens of militants in army operations, also in the Mopti region. It's not clear whether these two incidents involve the same militant group – several are known to operate in the region, including the Malian branch of al-Qaida. And also on Saturday, the 22nd of April, a Malian military helicopter crashed in the capital Bamako, killing three soldiers and wounding six civilians. Now again, it's not clear to what extent that crash was linked to the other two attacks in the Mopti region.
JIMMY: And how do things stand now? Is there any risk of more violence?
SOPHIE: Well, the situation is fluid and there are a significant number of unknowns, most pressingly, the specific groups that were involved in this so-called complex attack. The incidents overall just underscore that the security threat remains high, as militant attacks do remain an ongoing issue in Mali in general and the Mopti region in particular. Operations by the Malian military against militants can also have unintended civilian impacts. We have seen this in the past with airstrikes that have caused civilian fatalities, but often those fatalities are not known about until much later when an independent investigation takes place.
JIMMY: Has there been any international reaction to this attack? And you know, speaking of international, I saw the base may have something to do with Russia?
SOPHIE: So the UN says shots were fired toward its peacekeeper base in Sevare and it condemned the attack. As regards to the Russia angle, several unnamed sources told AFP that the base which was targeted in the complex attack was a Russian base. Now, Russia doesn't have any official military bases in Mali, but mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group are present in Mali supporting the military in operations against insurgent groups. So it's likely these mercenaries that constitute the Russia aspect of this base.
JIMMY: I see. Well, what do you think folks should be watching for next?
SOPHIE: Well, a few things. Military operations against insurgent groups in Mali are ongoing, so we will continue to see claims from the army of numbers of militants killed. Observers should also be cognizant that these military operations could have civilian impacts, as I mentioned before, but these may not be apparent until much later when organizations such as the UN or local NGOs investigate the situation. Similarly, further, retaliatory attacks by militants are also possible. You know, these could target similar installations, airports, UN bases, Malian military installations, any of those sorts of facilities. It's also worth being aware of the impact that this insecurity is having on the political situation in Mali. So, Mali underwent two military coups in 2020 in 2021 and it remains under military control. Now, the junta has announced a target timeline to return the country to civilian rule, but this is subject to disruption by attacks such as this one. Most recently, a constitutional referendum, which was due to take place in March and was seen as the first step in the political process back towards civilian rule, was indefinitely postponed against this backdrop of insecurity. So we could see similar disruption to the political process if similar attacks do continue to take place.
JIMMY: Well, Sophie, I think we'll leave it there for today, but I take comfort in knowing that you'll be following the story for us. Thanks so much.
SOPHIE: Thanks, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Vivian Wang, Joe Veyera, Jess Fino and David Wyllie. Our interview featured editor Sophie Perryer and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing email@example.com
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe