Monday. 17/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Leila Molana-Allen

Compromise candidate

Last week, Iraq’s parliament elected a new president, ending a deadlock that had persisted since the elections of October 2021. Abdul Latif Rashid (pictured, on right), a compromise candidate between the leading Kurdish parties, was only chosen after the required number of MPs failed to attend three parliamentary sessions. The vote went ahead despite multiple rocket attacks on Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the parliament is located, delaying it by several hours.

Under the country’s power-sharing agreement, the president must be a Kurd, the prime minister a Shia Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Sunni Muslim. While the role of president is largely ceremonial, Latif Rashid’s selection allows the next step in government formation to take place. Prime minister designate Mohammed Shia al-Sudani must select his cabinet and attempt to form a government. His job is not an easy one. In August, after influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr asked his MPs to withdraw from coalition-forming negotiations, his supporters staged a sit-in around the Green Zone, which led to some of the worst violence that Baghdad has seen in recent years. Al-Sudani is the choice of parliament’s other, Iran-backed Shia power bloc, so many among al-Sadr’s substantial support base might question his mandate.

In a noteworthy twist, the new president once served as the minister for what has become the country’s most pressing crisis this year: water scarcity. A speedy government formation is imperative. While Iraq has brought in tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues this year, its leaders must now make good on their promise of reform. A budget is desperately needed so that oil money can be used to tackle the endemic poverty, unemployment and decrepit services ravaging the everyday lives of Iraqis.

Leila Molana-Allen is Monocle’s Beirut correspondent. Tune in to Monocle 24 to hear her reporting from Baghdad.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Canada & USA

Border trouble

Relations between Canada and the US have soured over Nexus, a card-based system that allows for frictionless travel between the two nations. Tensions over the programme began during the pandemic when all 13 Nexus centres in Canada were shuttered as a result of a dispute relating to legal protections for US staff working there – allegedly including their ability to carry guns on Canadian soil. The closures, which continue as negotiations have stalled, have left a mounting backlog of travellers who are unable to renew their cards, which, in turn, has stymied cross-border movement. During a summit at the Canadian embassy in Washington last week, Kristen Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the US, said that the programme is “being held hostage”. The row ends a few months of relative calm along the border after the chaos of divergent pandemic restrictions and the “Freedom Convoy” (pictured) brought Canada-US relations to a historic low. Let’s hope that the issue is quickly resolved and the world’s longest land border stays open and frictionless.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Nigeria

Youth quake

As Nigerians prepare to vote in February’s presidential election, young people are leading the way in pushing for a new era for the West African nation. A recent poll revealed that 72 per cent of “decided voters” are supporters of businessman and former governor Peter Obi. Despite the poor national reach of his party, Labour, Obi’s support base has become so strong that it has been dubbed the “Obidient” movement.

The young people who make up the bulk of the movement say that they’re fed up with the current establishment and want a leader who can offer real solutions to the issues facing the country, including security and the economy. While the candidates might not be particularly fresh-faced – at 61, Obi is the youngest of the three leading contenders – the election in Africa’s most populous country might well be determined by Nigeria’s youth.

Image: IPA2X Consortium 2022

Urbanism / Slovenia

My bot lollipop

IPA2X (pictured) is the robotic equivalent of what schoolchildren in the UK would call a lollipop lady (or man). EU-funded researchers in Slovenia and Italy are developing the autonomous robot to help vulnerable pedestrians cross roads safely; its first public demonstration took place at BTC City Ljubljana, a sprawling shopping and commercial centre in the Slovenian capital.

IPA2X’s humble appearance – an LED display cube perched on top of a wheeled pyramid – belies an array of Lidar, ultrasonic and optical sensors that help its artificial intelligence to work out whether the road is busy. When it deems it safe to cross, the robot trundles valiantly into the middle of the road to stop any oncoming traffic. Daniel Avgadic, managing director of the project’s Slovenian partner, AV Living Lab, says that IPA2X could ease the pressure on police in various situations; for example, Avgadic tells The Monocle Minute, these systems could “help crowds to safely leave stadiums” at major sports events such as the Olympics. Lollipop bot, anyone?

Architecture / UK

Power source

After 39 years, 1.75 million new bricks and more than three times the quantity of steel used in the Eiffel Tower, London’s Battersea Power Station has reopened as a mixed commercial and residential space. Built in the 1930s, the iconic building once provided electricity for much of west London, including the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. It was closed in 1983 and a campaign was eventually launched to save it from demolition.

The renovation was a huge endeavour that involved dismantling and rebuilding its four 110 metre-tall chimneys, one of which now houses a 360-degree viewing platform. Though the project has been criticised for its focus on luxury housing and retail, Duncan Wilson, CEO of Historic England, argues that it is important to protect the UK’s industrial architecture. “Battersea Power Station shows that even problematic buildings can be saved with the right level of funding,” he tells The Monocle Minute. “Though the investment climate is far more challenging in the rest of England, many industrial buildings around the country could be repurposed and given a new life.”

Image: Cake

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Cake

Stefan Ytterborn is the founder of electric-motorbike manufacturer Cake. A seasoned entrepreneur who refined his skills with the creation and development of POC, a brand specialising in protective gear for adventure sports, Ytterborn has led Cake since 2016. Cake’s ground-breaking bikes delight design aficionados while offering a path towards a more sustainable future. Plus: Bob Sheard on the rise of Arc’teryx.

Monocle Films / Skelleftea

Inside Sweden’s electric flight school

A new electric flight school in Sweden is inspiring a future of emission-free aviation. Monocle takes to the sky, tries out the first fully electric plane to be approved for use in Europe and hears how Skellefteå has become a hotbed of green start-ups. Read more in the June issue of the magazine.

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