Tuesday. 12/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

It’s time for creative coalitions

What is up with the global electorate? It seems everywhere you turn these days there’s another hung parliamentary election, with citizens pulled in so many different ideological directions that parties have no idea who to partner with as their coalition bedfellows. The latest example comes from Spain, where prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s centre-left party won a plurality over the weekend – but hardly a majority. The ideological stances of other parties make Sanchez’s options in forming a coalition government next-to impossible.

It used to be that Belgium was the only western nation stuck with the tag of being ungovernable (it still holds the record for spending the longest time without a government). Now, we can add Spain to a long list of uneasy coalitions, minority governments or stalled parliaments ranging from Israel to Italy, Canada to Britain. In many of these cases, parties are not up to the complex challenge; instead, they’re going back to the electorate and seeking a new mandate that could provide some clarity (spoiler alert: fresh elections rarely do).

If you’re looking for some optimism, I’d draw your attention to my home country of Austria. On Sunday, the Greens voted unanimously to enter into formal coalition talks with Sebastian Kurz’s (pictured) conservative People’s Party, whose partner in the previous government was the far-right Freedom Party. Such a left-right coalition would be a first in Austria’s history if (and it’s a big if) the two sides can set aside their differences and form a government. They might be odd bedfellows but this is the hand that politicians are dealt these days. They had better find a way to play it.

Business / Iran

Sticky predicament

Iran has a made a lucrative new discovery – but whether it will be able to take advantage is an open question. President Hassan Rouhani announced on Sunday that a vast new oil field containing 50 billion barrels of crude had been found in Khuzestan province. The new field will be Iran’s second largest, boosting the country’s proven reserves by a third, yet crushing US sanctions are currently preventing any oil from reaching international markets. The sanctions, imposed after the US withdrew from a nuclear deal that Iran reached with global powers in 2015, have succeeded in crippling the country’s economy and the prospects of a reversal look slim. Tehran has responded to the US sanctions by slowly restarting its nuclear programme, prompting Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, to warn that the EU may activate the formal dispute mechanism of the nuclear deal if Iran does not return to full compliance. It may be better for the country to keep its oil discovery in the ground for now.

Politics / Germany

Given the green light

On Sunday, Hanover elected Green party candidate Belit Onay, the son of two Turkish immigrants, as its mayor. After winning more than half of the vote, Onay will serve as Hanover’s first mayor in more than 70 years who’s not a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) – and the victory is symbolic of a wider shift. Though the SPD has traditionally served as the centre-left party of choice, its popularity is waning and national polling currently places the party at only 14 per cent.

Meanwhile the Greens have enjoyed a stratospheric rise and now poll at 21 per cent, just five points below Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union. Hanover joins Freiburg, Darmstadt and Stuttgart as a major city with a Green mayor and, after a likely general election in 2021, the party might be governing much more than local politics.

Society / Japan

The party’s over

It seems that the days when a big business deal in Japan could be sealed over a lavish fugu banquet and glasses of the rarest saké are set to be a thing of the past. Shinzo Abe’s government is considering ending the tax break on wining and dining expenses at large companies by the end of this fiscal year. The tax bypass was introduced as a temporary measure to soften the blow of a consumption tax rise in 2014 and has been renewed twice already. The logic of ending it now is that large companies have already cut back on blow-out dinners, making the tax break unnecessary. Instead, the tax relief is expected to continue for at least another two years in small companies. This is where hospitality apparently still thrives.

Urbanism / Miami

Following the line

Miami is the latest city to announce a project inspired by New York City’s High Line (pictured) and, thanks to a $22.3m (€20m) grant from the US federal government, it’s set to (at least) double the length of its forerunner. The Underline, which has its first half-mile-long segment currently under construction, is a linear park to be built on vacant land beneath the city’s elevated Metrorail. The funds will help build an additional 5km stretch – featuring pedestrian paths, playgrounds and improved road crossings – through the Gables neighbourhood. This new funding shows that high-profile projects, such as the High Line, can be important catalysts to bring investment and change to urban areas. In the case of Miami, it has given the government confidence to help the city transform an overlooked and underused piece of land into a (hopefully) bustling neighbourhood park.

M24 / On Culture

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s new film tells the story of Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran, a 1950s truck driver turned hitman who became union boss Jimmy Hoffa’s right-hand man. But does it keep you gripped for its three-and-a-half hours? Robert Bound asks Tim Robey and Simran Hans.

Monocle Films / Sweden

The secret to building affordable homes

As part of our 'Secret to...' series we visit the architecture practice of Andreas Martin-Löf, which is reinventing residential housing in Stockholm.

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