The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 6 December 2016

Image: Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Talking politics

It was the briefest of reprieves that European politicians enjoyed on Sunday, as it became clear that Austrian voters had rejected (though still not by a colossal margin) the far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer. No sooner had that result been confirmed, however, than exit polls began to trickle in from Italy, which was voting on prime minister Matteo Renzi’s reform agenda. When the decisive “No” finally emerged late on Sunday it was clear that Renzi’s promise to resign in the case of a defeat was not simply a tactical error but a foolhardy gamble with European stability. French finance minister Michel Sapin quickly announced that the plebiscite was “a question of internal politics; the referendum wasn’t about Europe”. But with the eurozone’s third-largest economy now in disarray you can bet that the aftermath will be about little else.

Image: Louise Wateridge/Getty Images

Vote of confidence?

West Africa is still in collective shock after The Gambia’s 22-year dictator Yahya Jammeh graciously accepted his electoral defeat over the weekend. No call to arms, no accusations of fraud. Now the electoral compass turns to Ghana, which heads to the polls tomorrow to choose its next president. While the nation is often held up as an example of peaceful power transitions, the polling process itself doesn’t always go so smoothly. The opposition contested the 2012 re-election of John Mahama – citing irregularities at polling stations – and the prolonged court case that followed snarled up government for months. Reforms to the electoral system since haven’t reassured most Ghanaians that there won’t be a repeat, whichever way the vote goes.

Image: Masahiro Sugimoto/PA Images

Sombre stop-off

Since Japanese bombers and fighter planes launched a surprise attack on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, no sitting Japanese leader has ever gone to the site. On Monday prime minister Shinzo Abe said that he would be the first to do so. “I want to show my determination to never repeat the calamity of war again,” he told reporters in televised remarks. Abe plans to visit Hawaii with US president Barack Obama on 26 and 27 December following Obama’s historic trip to Hiroshima this summer. The attack on Pearl Harbor killed more than 2,000 Americans and Abe’s trip will be rife with symbolism about allies that have put the past behind them to forge close security and trade ties; it will also be a chance for Japan to reassure jittery neighbours about its military’s overseas peacekeeping missions. The message of solidarity comes at a time when China is flexing its muscle in Asia. Whether Tokyo and Washington will be as eager for such public displays of affection after president-elect Donald Trump takes office remains unknown.

Image: Alamy

Pedal power

Bikes now rule the streets of Denmark’s capital, having outnumbered cars for the first time. In the past year an additional 35,000 two-wheelers joined the ranks, catapulting the number to 265,700 in comparison to 252,600 cars. Bike traffic has increased by 68 per cent over the past 20 years due to Copenhagen’s dedication to creating a cycling city and its investment of DKK1bn (€136m) into infrastructure projects such as the long-awaited Inner Harbor Bridge, which connects Nyhavn and Christianshavn. Morten Kabell, mayor of technical and environmental affairs, told the papers that he sees “the central core of towns between Nørreport, City Hall and Kongens Nytorv becoming car-free within a decade”. The goal for 2025 is for 50 per cent of commuters in Greater Copenhagen to pick bikes over motorised vehicles and across the world cities are looking to Copenhagen as an example – particularly New York, which still has a long way to go. It is now pushing Citi Bike to expand to Staten Island and the Bronx to enable all New Yorkers to make use of the public bike-sharing scheme that serves thousands of people a day.

From Monocle 24

Image: Gaia Cambiaggi

Jane Morris, editor at large of ‘The Art Newspaper’

Jane Morris and Robert Bound ask whether we’ve reached peak biennial and if the circuit is getting a bit wearing.

From Monocle Films

Film: Circle of friends – the art of Arctic diplomacy

As the diplomatic wrangle over the Arctic continues, Monocle’s Toronto bureau chief Tomos Lewis travelled to the Arctic Council’s meeting in Iqaluit, northern Canada, to assess the path ahead for this strategically important area.

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