Tuesday 27 September 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 27/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Hard turn

In the end, there were no major surprises in Italy’s general election – even if the political implications of a sharp turn to the right are continuing to reverberate across Europe. As predicted, Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Fratelli d’Italia is now the most popular party in the country after winning 26 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s election. Although the nation’s weary president, Sergio Mattarella, still has to formally agree, it seems likely that Meloni will be Italy’s new prime minister as part of a coalition with the equally hard-right Lega and the centre-right Forza Italia, overseen by an 85-year-old Silvio Berlusconi. Together, they easily defeated the centre and left that had been unable to form viable coalitions.

Despite bureaucratic difficulties, such as having to vote in the place where you’re an official resident (rather than where you necessarily live) and a mind-bogglingly confusing voting system that mixes first-past-the-post and proportional representation, Italians have always gone to the ballot box in high numbers. This time around, turnout reached a historic low of 64 per cent, down by 9 per cent on 2018, which is perhaps a sign of voter fatigue in what has been a lacklustre campaign over the summer and early autumn. After the failures of largely left-leaning coalitions to deal with issues such as stagnant wages and creaking infrastructure, many will have voted for Meloni (pictured) out of protest or thinking that she is somehow an “outsider” alternative.

Much has been written about Fratelli d’Italia’s post-fascist roots and Meloni’s hard stance on immigration. In recent weeks she has tried to strike a more conciliatory tone but one mustn’t forget that this is the same person who has wagged her finger against the “LGBT lobby” at rallies and is an open admirer of Viktor Orbán. If she becomes prime minister, it’s hard to know exactly what sort of person will show up to work – and how much the weight of office could change her. Will this be a new era of culture wars in Italy as access to abortion becomes harder and a zero-tolerance policy towards irregular immigration is enforced? Or will the pragmatism of needing EU recovery-fund money, which Meloni has said she wants to partially renegotiate, prevail? Let’s hope it’s the latter.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large, based in Milan.

Image: Reuters

Politics / Japan

Counting the cost

After weeks of discussion, protests and plummeting prime-ministerial ratings, the funeral of Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe will finally take place today in Tokyo. The venue is the Nippon Budokan (pictured), a martial arts hall built for the 1964 Olympics, and among the thousands of attendees will be US vice-president Kamala Harris and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. While there is public revulsion over Abe’s assassination, the state funeral – only the second such event for a postwar prime minister – has become mired in controversy due to the cost to the taxpayer (¥1.66bn or €12m). Prime minister Fumio Kishida has said that the funeral shows Japan’s determination to “defend democracy”; opponents accuse the government of using the event to bolster its popularity. Discussions about Abe’s complex legacy look set to continue long after the ceremonials.

Image: Reuters

Trade / Kenya

Fuel to the fire

Kenya’s newly elected president, William Ruto (pictured), has declared that he is open to buying oil from Russia. Yet the Kenyan leader’s remark stands in stark contrast to the country’s previously scathing condemnation of the war in Ukraine. President Ruto’s apparent openness to Russian fossil fuels comes from a difficult place: Kenya’s soaring energy prices come on top of an already worsening economic situation.

“Russia’s investment in Kenya is comparatively insignificant, whereas the West’s influence in the country is immense,” says Moses Onyango, lecturer at the United States International University Africa in Nairobi. “Kenya therefore has more to lose if the West were to impose sanctions on it for doing business with Russia.”

Image: Alamy

Media / Brazil

Now hear this

In the month that Brazil celebrates 100 years since its first radio transmission, a new study by research company Kantar IBOPE Media shows that between April and June this year, 83 per cent of Brazilians tuned in to a radio broadcast. And it wasn’t a brief flirtation; average listening time was almost four hours. Brazil’s love for audio is having a financial impact, too, with radio advertising up by 31 per cent over the same period. Brazilian journalist and author Chico Felitti, from the hit investigative podcast A Mulher da Casa Abandonada, is not surprised. “We are used to listening to stories that are not necessarily visual,” he tells The Monocle Minute. But the embrace of podcasts – up by 30 per cent on last year – is a major change. As for the most searched-for genre? With voting in a divisive election happening this Sunday, it’s perhaps no surprise that the answer is politics.

Listen to an interview with Chico Felitti on today’s ‘The Briefing’.

Image: Axel Lindahl

Culture / USA

Frames of reference

Railway cuts, glacial ice and lonesome figures were a shared vernacular for Norwegian and American landscape photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These artists’ work is the subject of Across the West and Toward the North, a thought-provoking exhibition at Seattle’s National Nordic Museum that runs until 27 November. The images come from three collections rarely viewed individually, let alone together.

Underappreciated Nordic snappers such as Knud Knudsen and works including “Voss Railway” by Axel Lindahl (pictured) are featured alongside the doyen of Norwegian photography, Anders Beer Wilse. Oddly, the American vistas on show are typically devoid of people, unlike the Norwegian images. “In the Nordic countries, there’s an everyman’s right to the landscape,” says the museum’s director of collections, Leslie Anderson. “There’s a different orientation to encouraging exploration of the landscape than in the US.”

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Telma Shiraishi and Theo Randall

Telma Shiraishi tells us how she became one of Brazil’s most appreciated names in Japanese cooking and Theo Randall reveals his store-cupboard essentials.

Monocle Films / Helsinki

Sisu: The art of Finnish fortitude

Finland is a swimmer’s paradise and residents take to the water year-round. In colder months the practice often involves carving a hole into ice – a demonstration of sisu, the unique Finnish concept of fortitude in the face of adversity. Monocle joins journalist Katja Pantzar on an icy dip, to explore the mindset that dates back more than 500 years. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.


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