The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 9 August 2017

Elections

Image: PA Images

Head honcho

In Singapore the presidential post is largely ceremonial – but the fact that it will go to a Malay candidate is significant.

Singapore’s National Day celebrations traditionally highlight the city-state’s diversity; at today’s festivities that issue will be especially relevant as next month’s presidential elections will be, for the first time, exclusively reserved for Singaporean Malays. The nation’s constitution was amended late last year to ensure minority representation by reserving the ceremonial top spot for a racial group that hasn’t held a position in the presidential line-up for five continuous terms (only the first of Singapore’s seven presidents was Malay, a race recognised constitutionally as indigenous). This policy has already sparked a healthy debate on multicultural representation in government and three prospective candidates have so far thrown their hats into the ring, including speaker of parliament Halimah Yacob. 

Politics

Image: Alamy

Double vision

Mauritania's referendum may have given the nation a new flag but it has also let the president tighten his grip on power.

Mauritania is the latest country to vote for a new flag. In a referendum this month, 86 per cent of voters in the West African nation opted for a new design. The change was proposed by president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and will see two red stripes added to the flag, which currently features a yellow Islamic star and crescent moon on a bright-green background. The red lines are meant to symbolise the lives lost by those who fought France for independence. The referendum led to protests and was boycotted by the country’s opposition party because it also asked voters to decide whether the senate should be abolished. According to the opposition, this was a bid by Abdel Aziz to find a way to extend his influence and time in office. Once again, the vast majority said yes. 

Trade

Image: Getty Images

Fair trade?

China is investing in regional infrastructure to secure support for its own nation-building projects.

Chinese officials will attend a groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow for a 600km railway in Malaysia that will be jointly built at a cost of $13bn (€11bn). The East Coast Rail Line will transport passengers and goods from cities and ports on either side of the Malaysian peninsula. As construction advances, speculation will continue to grow about China’s plans to redraw traditional trade routes and bypass Singapore’s central container ship hub; talk of Beijing cutting a Panama-style canal through Thailand has previously unnerved the Lion City. Construction of the new line is expected to take seven years but China’s already seeing returns on its railway diplomacy in the region. Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations once again refused to take a hard line against Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea. Swapping infrastructure for influence is considered a fair trade in these parts.

Soft power

Fashion statement

Angela Merkel is gearing up to fight another election – and she’s dressed for the occasion.

Leave it to Angela Merkel to turn a regular opera visit into a political statement. The German chancellor attended Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at this month’s Salzburg Festival sporting a vintage kimono in all the colours of Germany’s political parties. It’s a confident message ahead of Germany’s general election, which will see Merkel battle Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats for a fourth term. And it seems she has every reason to be assured: only yesterday Schulz announced that he would stay on as leader of his party even if he loses the election on 24 September – which is looking ever more likely seeing as his centre-left party is currently trailing the conservatives by 12-18 points. And even though Merkel showed plenty of camaraderie in her choice of outfit, she didn’t forget to put her own party first: her trousers, shoes and bag were black, the colour of the Christian Democrats.

From Monocle 24

Autumn-winter fashion

Section D

Jamie Waters dials up fashion reporter Marc Bain in New York to round up this year’s autumn-winter campaigns by Gucci, Prada and Calvin Klein.

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