Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Sophie Perryer discuss the coup underway in Niger, plus more on primary elections in Argentina, a court hearing on Alabama’s proposed congressional maps, the Spanish Parliament meeting and leaders of the U.S., Japan and South Korea gathering for a summit..
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Sophie Perryer, Jaime Calle Moreno, Joe Veyera, Irene Villora and Jess Fino. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. 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 August 10.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got a coup in Niger, primary elections in Argentina, a court hearing on Alabama’s proposed congressional maps, the Spanish Parliament meeting and leaders of the U.S., Japan and South Korea gathering for a summit.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: Up first we’ll take a look at the coup underway in Niger. For more on that I’ve got Factal Senior Editor Sophie Perryer.
JIMMY: Hello, Sophie.
SOPHIE: Hey, Jimmy.
JIMMY: So glad you're here. There's been a lot going on in West Africa as usual, but now we've got another coup in Niger. Can you give us a bit of a recap on how we got here?
SOPHIE: Absolutely. It has been quite a tumultuous couple of weeks for Niger. On July 26, mutinous soldiers in their presidential guard seized power from President Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021. Bazoum is actually Niger's first democratically-elected president since the country gained independence from France in 1960. And in that time, Niger has seen four successful coups, the most recent one prior to this occurred in 2010. So as I said, on July 26, soldiers from the Niger's presidential guard appeared on television, announced that they had arrested President Bazoum, closed the country's borders, suspended the constitution and imposed a curfew and a general named Abdouhamane Tchiani later declared himself leader of the new military junta. In the wake of the coup, multiple Western nations, including the UK, the US and France have pulled some, if not all, humanitarian funding. France evacuated its nationals from its embassy in Naimey following an attack and the regional bloc ECOWAS held an emergency summit to discuss their response to the coup. Now, they issued the military junta with an August 6 deadline to return the currently-detained President Bazoum to power and effectively reverse the military takeover.
JIMMY: So what are the latest developments? How are things going at the moment?
SOPHIE: Well, the junta failed to meet the August 6 deadline and instead doubled down on their grip on power, closing the country's airspace and refusing to allow an ECOWAS joint delegation to enter on Tuesday. ECOWAS is now set to hold an emergency summit on Thursday to discuss their next steps. The bloc has threatened a potential military intervention, but this would be a really divisive move that would really sort of entrench regional alliances and significantly reduce the chance of a quick or bloodless resolution to the situation. For example, Mali and Burkina Faso, two of Niger’s neighbors who are also run by military juntas, are members of ECOWAS and they have said that they would leave the bloc and stand with Niger if there was a regional military invasion. Similarly, Nigeria, where ECOWAS is headquartered, would have to obtain Senate approval to support a military intervention and other neighboring nations that aren't in the bloc have said that they are opposed to any kind of military action – one example being Algeria. So as you can see, quite a complicated situation and the development is sort of really hanging on how ECOWAS decides to proceed following that emergency summit tomorrow.
JIMMY: How has the public reacted to all this in Niger? And, you know, I know you mentioned some of the international community, but have there been any other international responses to all this?
SOPHIE: Well, the US has been a bit of an outlier in their financial position. Unlike France and the UK, they haven't yet cut all of their funding to Niger. That's possibly a bit of an attempt to maintain some sort of leverage with the junta. Now, the US has also raised some concerns about Russia's potential involvement. There isn't a suggestion that Russia was actually behind the coup, but Prigozhin, who leads the Russian mercenary group Wagner, did express his support for the coup. Wagner troops are present in neighboring Mali and some reporting has suggested that Niger's coup leader reached out to Wagner for their support in tackling the same jihadist insurgency that Mali and Burkina Faso are currently facing. And in an interview a couple of days ago, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised concerns that Russia and Wagner would potentially capitalize on the insecurity in Niger in the wake of the coup to increase their influence within the region.
JIMMY: Well, considering all that, what do you think folks should be watching for next then?
SOPHIE: There's a couple of things that people should be keeping an eye out for. Firstly, as I mentioned, ECOWAS's decision on military intervention. That is really going to dictate how the next phase of this situation plays out. If ECOWAS are able to draw the necessary support among member states, it's not clear exactly when this intervention would begin but we would very likely see mass protests in Niger itself because the Nigerien public are broadly opposed to any sort of foreign intervention. And we have seen that borne out in the tensions with France over their ongoing military presence in the country. The other aspect to be aware of is the domestic situation as the impact of sanctions are starting to bite. Niger missed a $3.8 million treasury bond repayment on Tuesday and the public are contending with rolling blackouts because Nigeria, who usually supplies a significant percentage of Niger's power, aren't able to do so at the moment because of these financial sanctions. Niger is one of the world's poorest nations according to both the UN and the World Bank and with a lot of the development funding disappearing quite quickly in the wake of the coup, we will begin to see civilian impacts fairly quickly, most likely with regards to food insecurity and the potential for famine
JIMMY: Well, Sophie, we'll pause there for today, but I suspect this won't be the last time we have you on talking about Niger or a West Africa coup for that matter. Always appreciate your briefings.
SOPHIE: No problem. Thanks for having me.
JIMMY: Take care.
Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno
JIMMY: Argentinians will vote in the country’s primaries on Sunday. The polls come ahead of the general election on Oct. 22.
Current President Alberto Fernández announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking reelection.
That after a tumultuous political period saw discontent grow both nationally, due to the country’s deepening economic crisis, and internally within the ruling Peronist Justicialist Party.
On Sunday, voters will narrow down their presidential candidates, as well as vote on open seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
Leading the early polls is the center-right opposition coalition Juntos Por El Cambio, followed by the populist Peronist-backed Unión Por La Patria, likely led by current economic minister Sergio Massa, as well as far-right and radical libertarian candidate Javier Milei.
Now, with the general elections and a run-off second round looming in the coming months, the Argentinian primaries are a solid, but not certain, indicator on who will be running the country for the next four years.
The historically dominant Peronist party and its many factions suffered a strong defeat in 2021’s legislative elections, directly leading to their loss of a majority in the Senate for the first time in decades.
The primaries will also showcase in which direction the opposition’s campaign focuses, depending on the results of the tight race internally between the more center-right Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta and former defense minister Patricia Bullrich.
Finally, dire economic and inflationary woes will undoubtedly be at the top of the campaigns, even after recent negotiations with the IMF resulted in an additional $7.5 billion loan, providing some respite.
Alabama congressional map hearing
Information compiled by Joe Veyera
JIMMY: A panel of three federal judges will hear arguments Monday on the latest proposed congressional maps for Alabama.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that ordered state lawmakers to redraw the maps to create two districts in which "Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close."
In the special session that followed, the legislature approved new maps with just one majority-Black district and a second with around 40 percent in apparent defiance of the court mandate.
Now, Democrats are hopeful the creation of a second majority-Black district in Alabama could lead to similar outcomes in Louisiana and Georgia. That would certainly be a boost in their efforts to flip control of the House in 2024.
Officials have said new maps for Alabama must be in place by Oct. 1 to prepare for next year's elections.
Spanish Parliament meets following general election
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: Spain’s Parliament will convene on Thursday and when they meet they’ll start the process of appointing a new government.
Conservative party Partido Popular (PP) won 136 seats in parliament during the July 23 elections, followed by progressive party Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) with 122 seats.
A new president of the lower chamber will relay the composition of the parliament to King Felipe VI, who will then summon representatives of the different parties to a consultation round.
Following consultations, the king will propose a candidate to be appointed prime minister.
If the proposed candidate fails to obtain the necessary votes from lawmakers to become prime minister, the vote will be repeated in the following 48 hours, in which case obtaining a simple majority will suffice.
If the candidate fails to gain enough support after two parliamentary votes, the king will propose a new candidate and the same process will take place again.
Now, after the outcome of the general election and as negotiations among parties, there are two likely scenarios.
The king could ask Partido Popular’s Alberto Nuñez Feijoo to try to form a government first, but the formation of an alliance with enough support from the chamber is unlikely given that their potential allies – far-right party Vox and conservative Navarre nationalist party UPN – did not win enough seats to make up for the necessary majority.
If Partido Socialista Obrero Español’s incumbent Pedro Sánchez is instead tasked with forming a government, he could succeed in the simple majority vote with the support of progressive, Catalan and Basque nationalist parties.
If none of the candidates proposed by the king manage to form a government in two months, the parliament will be dissolved and general elections will be held again.
Japan, U.S. and South Korea summit in Maryland
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: Japanese and South Korean leaders will travel to the United States next Friday to meet President Joe Biden.
Biden invited South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the meeting during the G7 Summit in Japan back in May.
The summit will take place at Camp David in Maryland, where the leaders are expected to discuss expanding cooperation across the Indo-Pacific, including addressing the threat posed by North Korea, and to strengthen ties with ASEAN and the Pacific Islands.
Now, the meeting comes as Biden’s administration aims to strengthen its relationship with Japan and South Korea as they all share the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program and China’s growth.
The three countries have never held a formal summit, with Japan and South Korea recently working to improve their relationship after years of tensions.
South Korean officials have said the meeting will be an opportunity to elevate cooperation among the three countries “to a new level.”
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 Jaime Calle Moreno, Joe Veyera, Irene Villora and Jess Fino. Our interview featured editor Sophie Perryer and the podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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