Tuesday. 2/11/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Emma Searle

Test of faith

Municipal ballots in sub-Saharan Africa don’t typically draw too much international attention but this year’s regional elections in South Africa are an exception. Long queues formed outside polling stations across the country yesterday as voters decide who will run the country’s towns and cities. But why the worldwide interest? Because this year’s vote marks the most serious test to date for the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which has governed South Africa since Nelson Mandela took office in 1994.

The election is in part a referendum on president Cyril Ramaphosa but many of the issues are more fundamentally about the ANC’s leadership. Unemployment, corruption and the lack of basic services are at the forefront of many voters’ minds as the country faces a record unemployment rate of more than 30 per cent. The ANC itself faces mounting criticism over its failure to resolve decades of local mismanagement.

Loyalty to the ANC has waned in recent years as the party has grappled with competing internal factions, including tensions between those loyal to jailed former president Jacob Zuma and pro-Ramaphosa supporters who believe that internal reform is key to regaining public support. Previous municipal elections have resulted in the ANC losing control of key strongholds, including Johannesburg, the Tshwane metropolitan area and Nelson Mandela Bay.

If the ANC wins less than half the overall vote for the first time in its history in this week’s poll, many would have to consider the previously unthinkable possibility that the party of Mandela could soon be in opposition. But realising that there are electoral consequences for its failure to lead might be the long overdue wake-up call that the ANC needs.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / UK & France

Trawling for trouble

As world leaders seek to avert ecological apocalypse in Glasgow, the French government might begin retaliatory measures against the UK today in a dispute over fishing licences. Actions floated by the French include tougher checks on goods entering the UK and the threat of cutting electricity supplies to the island of Jersey, the self-governing British dependency at the centre of the spat. To characterise such a fraught issue as gestural might seem facetious; after all, fishing possesses considerable emotional power for these two historic seafaring nations. And yet it’s not hard to see France’s sabre-rattling as an attempt by Emmanuel Macron to court blue-collar votes ahead of next year’s presidential election. The problem with UK objections is that Macron’s rhetoric is straight out of Boris Johnson’s handbook. But with nothing less than the future of life on Earth being discussed on the banks of the River Clyde, fighting over an industry worth less than 0.1 per cent to the UK and French economies seems the smallest of fry.

For more on the fishiest of diplomatic spats, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Japan

Safety first

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida (pictured) and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) emerged from Sunday’s election with a comfortable majority as voters once again opted for stability. The LDP and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, secured 293 of the 465 seats, fewer than the 305 they had before the election but enough to get business done. Kishida campaigned on wealth distribution and helping out those hard hit by the pandemic but detailed policies were put off until after the election.

Kishida now looks set to pass his multi-trillion-yen stimulus package and will reportedly announce a first easing of pandemic-related travel restrictions this week – both measures could bring a much-needed boost to the economy. He will also have to put detail on his predecessor’s pledge that Japan will be carbon neutral by 2050. On the diplomatic front, he’ll be looking for an early visit to the US for a summit with Joe Biden but first up is a profile-raising visit to Glasgow for Cop26. Now that Kishida has this important victory under his belt, Japan will be looking beyond mere stability and hoping to see a more energised leader.

Image: Getty Images

Cinema / South Korea

Refreshing the screen

In a bid to lure reluctant audiences back to the box office, the Korean Film Council has begun to issue $10.4m (€9m) worth of discounted cinema tickets to the public. It’s a move that has come at the right time: with more than 75 per cent of the country’s population now fully vaccinated, distancing rules have been relaxed across South Korea and the government launched a “living with Covid” campaign yesterday. Authorities hope that the vaccination rate will reach 80 per cent very soon.

The scheme is generous: people can book up to two discounted tickets a week for screenings at more than 500 locations. With major blockbusters coming to cinemas this week, such as Marvel movie Eternals, which features Korean-American star Don Lee, the country’s film aficionados are on course for a happy ending.

Image: Alamy

Hospitality / Glasgow

Staying power

Hosting the UN’s Cop26 climate summit has posed a conundrum for Glasgow. Some 25,000 people – world leaders, delegates, media and observers – are registered to attend but Scotland’s biggest city only has about 15,000 hotel rooms. So it has had to get creative by bringing in two cruise ships to provide additional beds: currently moored on the River Clyde are Latvia’s Romantika and Estonia’s MS Silja Europa (pictured). Also getting a bit of a boost is ScotRail as, despite Glasgow’s best efforts, many delegates and members of the media are staying in Edinburgh and commuting between the two cities (CNN host Wolf Blitzer has drawn no small amount of flack for setting up his TV studio in Edinburgh instead). Also among the commuters is US president Joe Biden who will be making the journey in “The Beast”, a custom-built, 5.5 metre-long Cadillac limousine. Quite a departure for the man dubbed “Amtrak Joe”.

Image: Oliver Hess

M24 / Meet the Writers

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is a bestselling author in several countries around the world and her work has been translated into a staggering 55 languages. A political scientist by training, her books are revered for their ability to weave intricate threads into enthralling stories. She talks to Georgina Godwin about her new novel, The Island of Missing Trees, a unique story of memory, immigration and generational trauma.

Yinka Ilori’s 3D-printed basketball court

Designer Yinka Ilori discusses the design inspiration behind his temporary installation in London’s Canary Wharf and the importance of play in adulthood. Hear more on ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle 24.

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