The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 19 May 2017

Election

Image: Getty Images

Iran’s bellwether

Polls open today in the presidential race but whoever wins faces a battle to rein in the regime.

The campaign has been long and bitter but Iran finally heads to the polls today for a presidential election billed as a bellwether for the country’s future. Regardless of whether the hardliners’ favourite Seyed Ebrahim Raisi wins or the incumbent Hassan Rouhani, there’s a bigger power struggle many will ponder. Rouhani’s nuclear deal with the West hasn’t quite unfolded the way some imagined: there hasn’t been a mass lifting of sanctions or an uptick in economy. The reason, analysts say, is that the issues keeping Iran isolated – ballistic missiles and state-sponsored terrorism, for instance – are not in the hands of the democratically elected president but in those of a fanatical paramilitary corps that has grown around the regime. Whoever is elected today must make tackling this crony system their priority – corruption hampers the economy as much as sanctions – even if it lands them in the corps’ bad books.

Governance

Image: Getty Images

Pipping his predecessors

Macron’s latest appointment shows the new president is already getting into his stride.

Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande all tried to woo him but Emmanuel Macron got him. The nomination of Nicolas Hulot as the ecology minister this week has marked a real victory for France’s new president. Until now, the heralded environmentalist has refused to take on the role of minister, opting instead to hang out in the background as a consultant. With his solid reputation and even stronger personality, Hulot is sure to be a force in pushing a green agenda. Being able to convince Hulot to be part of his government is Macron’s biggest coup so far. The new president, who has been criticised for not making climate change a priority throughout his campaign, is now signalling that he has the chops to make changes.

Culture

Read it and weep

Turin has bumped its rival to make its book fair a success.

The organisers of Turin’s book fair Salone del Libro, which began yesterday, can finally breathe a sigh of relief. This edition is the first since Milan announced it was going to launch a book fair of its own (and therefore rival its neighbour’s primacy). But while attendance for Milan’s inaugural Tempo di Libri in April was considered underwhelming, the crowds queuing outside the Lingotto fairground bode much better for Turin. Despite a series of scandals that has gripped its management over the past few years, the Salone del Libro has managed to refresh its image while also retaining its relevance: 60,000 tickets were sold for the five-day event before the gates even opened. Milan may well be pulling its weight as a trade-fair city when it comes to design, fashion and food – but as for books, the grand finale of this tale of two cities is a little less predictable.

Transport

Line of fire

Detroit’s new trams serve the needs of the few – but is that what Motor City needs?

Detroit, famed for the automobile, now has an up-and-running tramline called the QLine. Equipped with free Wi-Fi, the streetcar is expected to serve between 5,000 and 8,000 commuters a day thanks to the mostly private capital that made it happen. The problem? It’s not exactly mass transit, which the city needs. Instead, the QLine is a marketing vehicle that will shuttle passengers from car parks to bars, concerts and sports stadiums, serving in large part the system’s sponsor – Quicken Loans – as the company also owns properties near the line. While a new public transport system is typically a good thing, the tram is limited in its size and scope, and Detroit still clearly needs a viable system for all.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Seoul’s new overpass

The Urbanist

The South Korean capital has turned a highway overpass into an elevated pedestrian walkway and park and it’s set to open to the public this weekend. Our Seoul correspondent, Jason Strother, got an early tour of the refurbished bridge and brings us this report.

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