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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 4 July 2017

Politics

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Contender, ready

A groundswell of support for the Citizens First party in Tokyo shows it’s reaching the form to take on Shinzo Abe’s LDP.

The landslide victory in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections for governor Yuriko Koike’s party shows that she has a solid fan base in Japan’s capital. It also marked a pivotal moment in Koike’s career: she has emerged as the only politician who poses a real threat to the dominance of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP). Not even the Democratic party – the largest of Japan’s opposition parties – has such sway with voters. In the assembly election Koike’s Tokyo Citizens First party and its allies captured 79 of the 127 seats; the LDP, which previously had 57 seats, won just 23. It’s still unclear how far Koike can extend her influence: her party is untested on the national stage. But Koike’s past as a former LDP member and journalist, as well as her recruitment of young politicians, gives her a better shot at upending the status quo than anyone else in recent memory.

Trade

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Cooking on gas

The France-Iran energy deal in the Persian Gulf will pour oil on troubled waters.

Donald Trump has made his disdain for the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and western powers very clear. Nonetheless the normalisation of trade relations is continuing apace, as evidenced yesterday by the agreement signed between French energy company Total and Iran’s state-owned Petropars to develop the South Pars offshore gas field in the Persian Gulf. Total was a major investor in Iran until 2006, when international sanctions were imposed, and is now returning with a project that will cost up to €4.4bn, will only begin to produce gas for the Iranian market from 2021 and will last 20 years. Trump may think the deal is a disaster but there are few more effective ways of making sure an agreement holds than by tying together two sides’ long-term economic interests. This will do more for peace than his strongman act.

Retail

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One for the road

A huge brand may be deserting some of Canada’s malls but business is buoyant on the country’s high streets.

The announcement by Sears that it is closing 59 of its Canadian department stores has stoked a debate about the future of shopping malls – where Sears has been an anchor retailer for decades – across the country. Smaller Canadian shopping malls are concerned by the empty space Sears’ departure will leave (it currently occupies 1.4 million sq m of retail space across the country). The city of Kamloops in British Columbia has already suggested that a major study into the future of retail there may be brought forward to coincide with Sears’ departure. Yet while its closure might mean a rethink of the Canadian mall, the news isn’t all doom and gloom: Canada’s retail sector grew by five per cent in 2016, buoyed by a welcome resurgence in bricks-and-mortar shops along high streets.

Culture

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On the same page

A gathering in Buenos Aires has been spreading the word on the importance of reading.

Ever considered the social function of public libraries? That’s precisely the question that has been posed in Buenos Aires where a three-day annual meeting, Iberbibliotecas, just wrapped up, bringing together a public-library network from around the predominantly Spanish-speaking world, spanning Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay and Spain. The idea has been to share ideas, talk about public cultural policy in different countries and learn what each place does best. In case you’re wondering, Chile has a particularly good book-lending service despite having limited funding while Colombia has a strong programme of working with its indigenous communities. As many wealthy nations, such as the UK, continue to scale their library programmes back, it’s heartening to see others making improving them a priority.

From Monocle 24

How do you write an essay?

The Culture Show

Brian Dillon is the author of a new book called Essayism. He muses on the beauty of the essay with Monocle’s Tom Edwards and Daniel Giacopelli.

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