Tuesday. 13/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Surprise parties

There was much to confound observers of election results in Ecuador and Peru this past weekend. In Ecuador, former banker and conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso (pictured, on left) surprised many with a run-off election win on his third shot at the presidency. It helped that the opposition failed to unite around young leftist economist Andrés Arauz, whose candidacy was undermined by Yaku Pérez, an indigenous leader who almost made the second round instead of Arauz and called on his supporters to spoil their ballots. In Peru the situation is even more fragmented. Preliminary results show leftist Pedro Castillo in the lead – another surprise – followed by three other candidates who are all still in with a chance to make it to a run-off in June.

There are many reasons for this explosion of new and unexpected candidates: one is disillusionment with the main political parties on the left and right, as is clearly happening in Peru, where an unprecedented number of people simply spoilt their ballots. There has also been a rise in the number of parties campaigning on single issues or identity politics – younger political parties focusing more on gender and the environment, for example – that could have eroded support for traditional leftists. And then there’s the weak economy and the devastating effects of coronavirus, which have led some leaders to shine and others to fall from grace.

After years of swings between left and right, politics in Latin America is becoming increasingly fragmented. This is not necessarily a bad thing: recent elections suggest the region is moving away from strongman figures. But who will take their place? For the moment, it’s anyone’s guess; what’s clear is that landslide victories are becoming a thing of the past.

Image: Matthew Fisher/Postmedia

Media / Canada

Foreign service

The best foreign correspondents spend their entire careers trying not to become the story, instead offering a window to the world for their readers, viewers or listeners back home. That’s certainly the case for Canada’s Matthew Fisher, who died at the age of 66 last weekend and whose storytelling is being remembered by everyone from politicians and broadcasters to the Canadian Armed Forces. Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, remembers Fisher (pictured, on right) as a “fearless journalist” who would go anywhere to get the story. That’s an understatement for a man who travelled to more than 170 countries over 35 years while writing for Canada’s leading newspapers, including The Globe and Mail and National Post. He covered everything from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Rwandan genocide to Olympic gold-medal moments. Fisher was an increasingly rare breed; that he’s being celebrated as “the last of the foreign correspondents” by his media contemporaries in Canada is what stands out most in his passing.

Image: Shutterstock

Elections / Chad

Veteran performer

Presidential elections held in Chad on Sunday are widely expected to extend the rule of incumbent Idriss Déby (pictured). Chad’s 68-year-old leader, who has been in power since 1990, has been accused of sanctioning violent intimidation tactics that have caused 10 of the 16 candidates originally on the ballot to withdraw. Reports have also emerged of security forces cracking down on protesters calling for political change in the lead-up to what they view as a rigged election.

“There’s a sense of theatricality to elections in Chad. Expecting a formal political process to bring change is quite unrealistic,” Ben Shepherd, a consulting fellow at Chatham House’s Africa programme, tells The Monocle Minute. “The real threat to Déby would be rebellions and armed movements; there has never been a peaceful handover of power in Chad’s history.” A sad reminder that, in some countries, true democracy remains all but impossible.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Japan

Chive hustle

Japan’s ailing agriculture industry has been getting a boost of late. Japanese recruiting agency Mynavi reports that the number of people who want to work in agriculture rose tenfold in the 12 months up to January; the number of people attending events promoting jobs in farming has soared by 40 per cent over the same period. Many applicants come from urban areas and might already have a job but are seeking what the agency calls “double work” – farming on the side while working remotely in other industries. More than half are under 40 too. Companies involved in supplying fresh produce are reporting that they’re hiring workers who have been employed in everything from IT to insurance. “Problems like ageing workers and lack of people in agriculture in Japan are getting serious,” professor Kazuhiko Hotta of Tokyo University of Agriculture told the national news broadcaster NHK. “It’s a good thing that more people are entering the industry, even part time.”

Image: Christian Merz

Urbanism / Switzerland

Road works

For cities with narrow streets and limited resources, making roads safe for cyclists can prove extremely tricky. The city of Uster in Switzerland has launched an experiment that is more about psychology than a major redesign: the addition of cycle lanes on either side of roads that are actually too narrow to accommodate them at the required width. Typically, such skinny roads either have a strip for bikes on one side only – which helps no one – or they have none, which can make motorists feel as though they own the road. The hope in Uster is that the new markings will help drivers to understand that cyclists have the same rights as other road users. “This test operation is intended to show whether the road space can be made more attractive and safer for cyclists by simple means, without significantly restricting other road users,” says Marcel Kaufer, who manages the city’s infrastructure. It’s time for cars to share the road: compromise is a two-way street.

M24 / Meet the Writers

Polly Samson

Polly Samson is a UK novelist and lyricist best known for writing the lyrics to seven tracks on Pink Floyd’s hit album ‘The Division Bell’. The former journalist has written a number of critically acclaimed short stories and novels, the latest of which is ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’, a story of discovery set against the beautiful backdrop of Hydra, the Greek island fabled for its hedonism in the 1960s. The book was widely hailed as one of the best novels of 2020.

Monocle Films / Global

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