Monday. 1/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Rank and file

The cancellation of an election usually indicates that whoever is in charge has decided that they no longer require the people’s endorsement to continue. This is not quite the case in Algeria, where a presidential election was supposed to happen this week but isn’t.

In April long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office by protests. Bouteflika’s interim replacement, Abdelkader Bensalah, called elections for 4 July but earlier this month Algeria’s constitutional council cancelled the vote, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set.

Pro-democracy demonstrators are demanding the resignation of everyone associated with the old regime, Bensalah included. He has called for “dialogue” but most believe that the real power to decide what happens next lies with Algeria’s military chief, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Salah said last week that abandoning Algeria’s constitutional framework would mean “sinking into chaos”, which prompts the interesting question of what he would call the current situation. It appears wretchedly possible that he might be regarding the examples of Egypt and Sudan – where brief flickers of freedom have been extinguished by military dictatorship – as guides, rather than cautionary tales. It would be nice, just once, to see an army take the side of its people.

Politics / Hong Kong

Stuck in a rut

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule. Mass protests are underway, as are further demands for the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam to throw out the extradition bill (and hand in her resignation shortly after). While it’s clear that Lam’s days at the helm are numbered, it’s also becoming obvious that Hong Kong is faced with an intractable conundrum: its people will never fully support a leader thought to be in the pocket of Beijing, but Xi Jinping is loath to concede more autonomy to the self-governed area. Protest and mass dissent is becoming ever more a staple of Hong Kong life.

Diplomacy / Russia & Rome

Man on a mission

Fresh off the glad-handing and back-slapping of last week’s G20 summit in Japan, Vladimir Putin is this week preparing to head to Rome for a state visit. The trip will include face-to-face time with Pope Francis on Thursday, marking their third meeting. The topic of conversation isn’t likely to touch on spiritual matters so much as diplomatic ones. After all, Putin’s pope talk will take place just days before Ukrainian Greek Catholic leaders meet at the Vatican to discuss the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has deepened the divisions between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches. So far Francis has stayed above the fray of the churches’ schism but Putin’s sure to use their sit-down to evangelise on behalf of the Russian Orthodox church.

Fashion / Berlin

Off the cuff

Today editors, buyers and designers descend on the German capital for Berlin Fashion Week. The city has made a good job of bringing its artsy, gritty appeal to bear in its aspirations as a fashion hub – think all-night fashion raves and runway shows at Berghain. But at a time when Paris seems to be eclipsing Milan, New York and London, where does Berlin fit in? The answer doesn’t just lie in the opening-day shows of Danny Reinke (pictured) and Kilian Kerner but also in the city’s wealth of young talent. Such flair will be on display at the Growhouses, which are presenting emerging designers at Ewerk, and Neonyt, a fair at Kraftwerk Berlin focusing on the future of clothing. Fashion Council Germany’s Fireside Chat will surely add some fresh ideas to the mix too.

Diplomacy / China & Canada

Stirring up trouble?

Two Chinese fighter jets buzzed a Canadian warship and supply vessel last week in the East China Sea. A Chinese state-run newspaper branded the move a “warm welcome” for the Canadian ships, which, while travelling from Vietnam to North Korea, have also been shadowed by Chinese vessels. The Canadian journey has included passage through the disputed Taiwan Strait, which some experts predicted would exacerbate tensions stemming from the December arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. On Friday, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau arrived at the G20 summit in Osaka hoping to secure the release of two Canadians detained in China, while also encouraging Beijing to ease restrictions placed on Canadian agricultural exports. While Canada denies the fly-by was provocative, it’s difficult to imagine it was anything but.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Islamophobia: a 21st-century hatred

Last year in the UK the Home Office recorded a 40 per cent increase in religious hate crimes – of which more than half were directed at Muslims. What does Islamophobia mean now for the people on the receiving end of it? And given the extensive media coverage of Islam this century, why has so little been learned? Andrew Mueller is joined by Salma El-Wardany, Hussein Kesvani and Asma Uddin.

Monocle Films / Global

Quality of Life Survey: top 25 cities, 2019

What makes cities tick: security, nightlife, infrastructure? Join us on a round-the-world trip of places that we’d like to call home.

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