Monday. 25/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Steadying the ship

Emmanuel Macron (pictured) has been returned to the Élysée Palace and the margin was more comfortable than most polls were predicting – projections on Sunday showed Macron with more than 58 per cent of the vote, compared to 42 per cent for the far-right Marine Le Pen. But for Le Pen the election was a marked improvement on her 2017 result; that year, Macron’s victory was even more decisive, with 66 per cent to Le Pen’s 34 per cent. Although Le Pen clearly remains a far-right candidate, her efforts to rebrand her politics – coupled with rivalry from the more extreme candidate Éric Zemmour in the first round – have cemented her place in France’s political establishment.

So, while the election result means that there’ll be little change to the status quo for now, the question of how long France can maintain a centrist in power with the far-right and far-left waiting in the wings remains salient. The second round was marked by widespread apathy: about 28 per cent of voters abstained, the highest figure for a second-round presidential election in half a century. Macron urgently needs to address this. Yet it’s also worth remembering that it’s nothing new for France to tire of its leaders; indeed, Macron is the first president to win a second term since Jacques Chirac in 2002. He can at least take heart from that.

As he embarks on a second term, Macron will need to do more than simply unbutton his shirt again for his official photographer. The challenge ahead is enormous in a country that is facing some of the same social and economic divisions blighting the US and UK, not to mention a belligerent Russia. But Macron also has an opportunity: a chance to prove that a centrist approach at home and a multilateral, European state of mind abroad are unquestionably the right courses of action. First, another challenge looms: French voters return to the polls in June to elect legislators to the National Assembly and Macron needs to do well in these votes too if he wants to ensure that he can get his policies passed into law.

For full coverage of France’s election result live from Paris, tune in to Monday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Asia-Pacific

Bearing fruit

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern touched back down in Wellington yesterday, after a weeklong visit to Asia that marked her first overseas trip since early 2020. “New Zealand is open for business,” Ardern said before leaving. Her first stop was Singapore, where an expanded working-holiday scheme between the nations was announced. Ardern was then greeted in Tokyo by giant kiwi-fruit mascots, swaying to classical music, despite the fact that New Zealanders’ nickname comes from the bird rather than the green-fleshed fruit. Though the gesture might have seemed surreal, the fruit is big business and Japan imports $600m (€550m) worth of it from New Zealand. Meanwhile, the countries agreed to negotiate an information-sharing deal and Ardern and her Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, expressed “serious concerns” about China’s growing militarisation and territorial claims in the South and East China seas.

Image: Getty Images

Media / USA

Rowing upstream

Barely a day goes by without another headline about turbulence in the media sector. Last week, CNN+, the TV news channel’s month-old subscription streaming service, was abruptly put out of its misery; its parent company, Warner Bros Discovery, cited low subscription numbers and poor planning for its decision to pull the plug. Media analyst Ian Whittaker says that its demise should be seen in the context of the cost-of-living crisis, a fragmenting content marketplace and the fact that we’re no longer trapped in our homes by the pandemic.

With viewers already overloaded with streaming subscriptions – and in a media landscape where so much content is free to access – the odds were against the service. “People were asking why they needed to pay for CNN+,” he says. With Netflix also recently announcing its first drop in subscription numbers in a decade and suffering the largest daily fall in its share price since 2004, the traditional streaming model “seems to be approaching its limits”, says Whittaker.

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / Netherlands

Flower power

The Netherlands is a horticultural heavy hitter and earlier this month the once-a-decade plant-centred tradeshow Floriade once again opened its doors. Hosted at Almere, 30km east of Amsterdam, the site – linked by wide tulip-lined boulevards and set across three islands – includes 33 national pavilions and more than 200 private companies under the theme of “Growing Green Cities”. The UAE’s showcase, for instance, discusses reusing scarce water supplies, while Japan proudly shows off its roses in a thatched, flower-lined hut. “We need at least two million happy visitors and to have 300,000 B2B visitors who are inspired and feel like striking new deals,” says Frank Cornelissen, the fair’s chief commercial officer, as builders continue working on a few not-quite-finished parts of Floriade’s 60-hectare site. The show closes in October, at which point Rotterdam-based master planners MVRDV will help give the grounds new life as an eco-friendly residential neighbourhood called Hortus.

Image: Alamy

Business / Japan

Cover story

Japan is home to plenty of esteemed publications and a healthy print culture but, according to the Tokyo Bookshop Group, the number of small-to-medium-sized bookshops has dwindled by two thirds since the 1990s. To shed light on the role of such shops in the community – and what readers stand to lose if more close – director Tetsuo Shinohara has interviewed the owners of 72 independent Tokyo booksellers.

The resulting films are available on Youtube as part of the Bookshops of Tokyo project and tomorrow a photography exhibition showing the featured bookshops will open at Sanyodo, an iconic retailer in the well-heeled Aoyama neighbourhood. The project is a pressing reminder of the perks of print and the importance of bookshops. Surely the next sensible step is to turn that exhibition into a beautiful new book?

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Pop in Portugal

Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco runs down the top songs in Portugal.

Monocle Films / France

The secret to baking bread

Paris baker Christophe Vasseur runs the successful corner shop Du Pain et des Idées and knows the secret of the perfect loaf.

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