Tuesday. 29/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Front and centre

It seems everywhere you look these days there’s a story about the rise of the far right. The latest example is Germany’s eastern state of Thuringia, where over the weekend a hopelessly divided electorate delivered a result that will tie regional politicians up in coalition negotiations for weeks. Top billing went to post-Communist party The Left but second place went to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which more than doubled its support. Meanwhile Germany’s better-known centrist parties are licking their wounds.

And yet, while much of the media has focused on the death of the centre and worrying surge of the AfD, you should look elsewhere for a more intriguing lesson about what’s happened. Germany’s Left party has long been on the fringes of national politics but its success in Thuringia – this is the second time in five years that it has claimed the top spot – is not because the state has lurched to the left. In fact Thuringia’s state premier, Bodo Ramelow (pictured), has won about a third of the electorate by moving his party to the centre. He’s done so by showing that The Left is ready to govern maturely, not by pandering to the electorate’s fears.

Ramelow’s success suggests that centrism is not dead – it’s more the case that voters’ support is fluid. The electorate will back a party that has credible leaders who are able to govern and, crucially, to compromise. Perhaps that, rather than the creeping rise of the far right, could serve as the hopeful lesson behind this latest election result.

Elections / Hong Kong

One man, one vote

Hong Kong’s election office has now vetted every candidate for next month’s local elections except one: Joshua Wong (pictured). The city’s most famous pro-democracy activist is still waiting to hear whether he will be allowed to stand for district councillor; his original vetting officer has fallen ill and the government have struggled to find a replacement willing to make a decision. Over the weekend Wong, a young activist, reiterated that he did not support independence for Hong Kong – a stance that would lead to him being barred from running. Wong hopes to stand in a constituency on Hong Kong island, where he has a good chance of winning. The final list of candidates must be published by Thursday; whether Wong is included or not, it will be a frightening Halloween for Hong Kong’s government.

Society / Colombia

Laying down the law

Bogotá elected its first female and out gay mayor last weekend. Claudia López, a member of the country’s Green Alliance, has been heavily involved with the struggle against corruption in Colombia. The former journalist’s policies are likely to include putting more police on the streets and fighting child labour in the Colombian capital. While López (pictured) is a symbol of hope and progress for the country, the elections that brought her to power didn’t pass without bloodshed; seven candidates were killed and a dozen attacked in the course of campaigning.

Despite that, the country’s national registry office described the poll as the most peaceful of its kind in recent history, though “peace” is a relative term in this turbulent nation. After signing a peace deal with guerilla movement Farc in 2016, Colombia is still a long way from stability. Nevertheless, López’s stance on security and social issues is a step in the right direction.

Politics / Philippines

Accident waiting to happen?

President Rodrigo Duterte’s health is once again the talk of Manila and beyond. The strongman leader (pictured) had to return early from the enthronement of Japan’s new emperor last week, citing unbearable pain, reportedly from a recent motorcycle accident. The 74-year-old’s latest ill turn comes in the same month that he disclosed the latest in a growing list of ailments that includes an auto-immune neuromuscular disease, regular migraines and reported problems with his circulation. His health is closely watched in political circles. Should he be unable to serve, the vice-president will have to step in. Opposition politician Leni Robredo won the directly elected contest in 2016 but her victory is still being challenged by senator Bongbong Marcos – son of the late dictator and Duterte’s preferred successor. Duterte is thought to be hanging on until he can hand over power to Marcos; however, a recently announced recount went in Robredo’s favour. The election saga – and Duterte – stumble on.

Business / France

Glittering goal

LVMH yesterday confirmed that the swirling rumours are true: the French luxury giant made a $14.5bn offer for US jeweller Tiffany & Co earlier this month. If the deal goes through – as it looks likely to – Tiffany’s would be the first US heritage brand in LVMH’s portfolio and consolidate the firm’s hold on the jewellery market (it already owns Bulgari and Chaumet). Perhaps most importantly, however, LVMH would inherit Tiffany’s property portfolio – including the ten-storey flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue. “Tiffany is one of the few brands that owns a good deal of its real estate,” says Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, published by Penguin Random House. “This is a company that has the jewels in the vault – but it’s also got the vault in its own building.”

M24 / Monocle on Culture

‘By the Grace of God’

We discuss the new docudrama by French director François Ozon, which deals with a complex and ongoing case of child abuse in the French Catholic church. Ben Rylan’s guests are film critics Karen Krizanovich and Tim Robey.

Monocle Films / Japan

Senior style in Japan: living the good life at 80

For many older people in Japan, work isn’t just a way to keep busy but also a source of happiness and wellbeing. From a 71-year-old barber to a 100-year-old café owner, Monocle Films visits Japan’s elderly, who are showing little sign of letting up.

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