Monday. 6/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Out of action

A day really is a long time in politics: on Thursday, Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga (pictured) was all set to stand for re-election as leader of the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. On Friday he was telling reporters that he’d decided to step down after less than a year in office. “I had planned to run but dealing with both coronavirus and the election would require an enormous amount of energy,” said Suga. “I decided that there was no way to do both; that I had to choose. I decided to focus on coronavirus measures.”

Speculation about Suga’s precarious position had been rampant in recent weeks. A combination of seemingly endless coronavirus restrictions, a slow vaccine rollout and the decision to go ahead with the Olympic Games has turned public opinion against him. He tried to shore up his position by planning a reshuffle for this week but it seems that the party heavyweights were having none of it. The behind-the-scenes machinations are opaque but many think that Suga was pressured to stand aside to give the LDP a better shot in this autumn’s general election.

So who will replace him in the leadership election on 29 September? Public polls have consistently favoured party maverick and English-speaker Taro Kono, who is currently in charge of the vaccine programme. Shigeru Ishiba, a former defence minister, is also liked by the public – if less so by the party. Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida is in the running and right-winger Sanae Takaichi has thrown her hat into the ring, though she has yet to secure the requisite 20 members of the Diet (Japan’s legislature) to support her candidacy. Choppy waters are ahead for Japan but Suga’s unexpected announcement has at least injected some much-needed energy into Japanese politics.

Image: Getty Images

Business / Germany

Road ahead

The IAA Mobility Show has a big job to do when it opens today in Munich. Not only do organisers hope to prove that this kind of trade fair is still worthwhile for the likes of Audi and Mercedes-Benz, they are also tasked with convincing the press and public. One clue to a fresh approach is in the name: this isn’t just a motor show any more, it’s about how we get where we’re going, featuring everything from e-bikes to public-transport innovations. There’s even the so-called Blue Lane test track that uses new vehicle technology to link the main event space with the centre of town. Even so, most eyes will no doubt be on the latest releases of electric vehicles, as the push to ditch petrol cars is helping to spawn dozens of new e-models. It’s a moment of change for how we move around and the IAA 2021 hopes that it can be at the centre of that.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Russia

No going home

The career of journalist Sarah Rainsford (pictured) has taken her to some of the world’s most dangerous places, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but she was never before expelled simply for doing her job. As Moscow correspondent for the BBC, she charted the rise of Vladimir Putin and his increasingly repressive regime with a bravery and honesty born of her admiration for a country and a people she had known since the mid-1990s.

A few weeks ago on a visit to Belarus, she was heckled on live TV by president Alexander Lukashenko and his supporters. On her return she was stopped at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport and told that she would be deported from the country she called home. The reasons that she was given were vague but, she tells The Monocle Minute, “For 20 years Vladimir Putin has overseen a gradual silencing of critical voices in Russia, from politicians to activists and now the media.” Her expulsion certainly doesn’t bode well for what remains of Russia’s free press.

To hear more from Rainsford about her experience, listen to today’s episode of ‘The Briefing’, live at midday London time on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Venezuela

Talking peace

Following an initial set of negotiations last month (pictured), the Venezuelan government and members of the opposition began a new round of talks on Friday afternoon aimed at solving the country’s long-standing political crisis. It is hoped that the two sides will soon agree to fair elections in return for the lifting of international sanctions. Whereas past attempts at reconciliation have been largely unsuccessful, experts suggest that these talks – being held in Mexico City – could be different. “The conditions are a little more ripe for a breakthrough,” Christopher Sabatini, senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute. “In the past, especially the first three talks, participants were really quite feeble in terms of not imposing timelines or expectations. It was an empty dialogue. Now, because of the focus on free and fair elections, there are more specific demands.” After months of impasse, any movement towards a resolution would be welcome.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Design / Italy

Changing gears

Milan Design Week is in full swing after a weekend of press and industry previews across the city’s furniture showrooms and the Rho fairgrounds, where a good portion of the trade event is held. Thankfully, those weary from wandering the city were refreshed at Monocle’s cocktail event in the design district of Brera last night. As part of a partnership with Swiss systems manufacturer USM and Rossignoli bike shop (where the party took place), top industry names came for cocktails, canapés and conversation about where design is heading. As well as unveiling an ambitious collaboration between Monocle and USM on two new Rossignoli bikes, Milan’s top cyclist pit-stop also boasted a leafy redesign thanks to a plant-focused installation from USM. The coming week will see Monocle continuing the conversation with Salone del Mobile’s biggest names in this unique space. Monocle 24 is also producing live radio broadcasts from the shop. Do come by if you’re in the Brera district this week. 71 Corso Garibaldi, 20121

Don’t forget to buy your copy of our special newspaper for Salone. Click here to order a copy now.

Image: ANA SANTL

M24 / The Menu

How the Mad Foundation changed the world

René Redzepi of Copenhagen restaurant Noma launched the Mad Foundation and Mad Symposium 10 years ago. Also in the programme: Monocle’s new neighbour in London Junsei Yakitori and the week’s food and drink headlines.

Monocle Films / Finland

The home of the Finnish art scene

We tour the breathtaking studios of artists’ residence Lallukka in Helsinki, which hasn’t changed its purpose since it was completed in 1933. The landmark functionalist building offers spaces at low rents so that its tenants can focus on one thing: making art.

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