Thursday 3 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 3/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Leila Molana-Allen

Time for change

When Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun left office earlier this week it marked the conclusion of a six-year term that has seen the sharpest decline in the country’s fortunes since the civil war ended more than 30 years ago. Aoun (pictured) departed without an ounce of remorse, with his parting speech on Sunday reinforcing his view that everyone but him is to blame for Lebanon’s collapse.

Aoun’s exit is a sad reflection of the woeful leadership that has brought the country to its knees. As he left, he demanded that Lebanon’s caretaker government, headed by prime minister-elect Najib Mikati, resign after having failed to form a new administration in the six months since May’s election. Before throwing stones, though, the presidential office should get its own house in order; after four failed attempts this year, a new president still has not been elected, leaving Lebanon with no functional leadership.

As the country continues to deteriorate, Aoun is insisting that Gebran Bassil, his deeply unpopular son-in-law, must succeed him as president. This would ensure that their party, the Free Patriotic Movement, holds on to power. It is a reminder that Lebanon’s politicians continue to focus on internal bickering rather than the business of running the country.

Lebanon has no clean water; this week the World Health Organization warned that a cholera epidemic is spreading rapidly. There is also no reliable grid electricity, few functioning hospitals and the banking system has effectively shut down. The caretaker government’s most recent decision has been to increase almost tenfold the fees that citizens must pay for the hour a day of electricity provided by the state, even as they struggle to cover astronomical bills for their replacement generators.

The in-tray of the next government, when it is eventually appointed, will be towering. One can only hope that it will find a way to prioritise solutions for Lebanon’s suffering citizens; the performance of its predecessors suggests otherwise.

Leila Molana-Allen is Monocle’s Beirut correspondent

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / USA

One man, one vote

Just days before crucial midterm elections in the US, an Arizona judge has imposed a restraining order on a so-called election-monitoring group accused of intimidating voters. Clean Elections USA has been banned from filming voters and visibly carrying weapons near a ballot drop box. The group says that its purpose is to prevent voters from casting multiple ballots. Conspiracy theories have proliferated in recent years, fuelled by former president Donald Trump and allies who claim that he won the 2020 presidential election. “We see polarisation in almost everything we ask about,” Lydia Saad, director of US social research at Gallup tells The Briefing on Monocle 24. That includes the economy, crime and, above all, approval of Joe Biden, which is hovering around 40 per cent. “Anything below 49 or 50 per cent is challenging for an incumbent in an election year,” says Saad. Voters would do well to try to bridge divisions with their fellow citizens, finding common ground even when it seems most difficult.

To hear more coverage and analysis of the forthcoming midterms, tune in to ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Italy

Rave review

The new far-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni (pictured) has picked a controversial law to introduce as its first since coming to power. The government is proposing to criminalise gatherings of more than 50 people who “invade” terrains or buildings for activities considered to be dangerous to public order, with penalties of up to six years imprisonment and fines of up to €10,000.

Though the government insists that the proposed law is designed to curtail events such as illegal raves, many are worried that its wording allows for it to be used against protests and demonstrations. Whether or not that’s the objective, choosing this issue as a first move speaks volumes about Meloni’s interest in hardline policing. Her Brothers of Italy party should realise that the proposal might have a damaging effect on the same democracy that swept it to power.

Image: Maurice Haas

Fashion / Switzerland

Timely intervention

Over the past 10 years, Bulgari has manoeuvred its way into the upper echelons of Swiss horology. “We were a jeweller that made timepieces without any technical know-how,” Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, the Naples-born creative director of Bulgari watches, tells Monocle. The LVMH-owned brand was originally known for its gem-encrusted jewellery, rather than for its timepieces, which contained mechanisms manufactured by outside watch-makers.

But in 2000 the company took over the factories of two famed Swiss horologists, allowing it to manufacture every wheel and spring in-house. In a bid to bridge the gap between the Italian design and Swiss manufacturing sides of the business, Stigliani (pictured) moved Bulgari’s watch-design team from Rome to Switzerland. Bulgari’s Italo-Swiss approach is clearly working. Though LVMH doesn’t break down profits by company, in its second-quarter earnings presentation this year, it singled out Bulgari’s watch division as a star performer. “We are happy because, after 50 years, we are trendsetters again,” says Stigliani.

To read the full story, pick up the November issue of Monocle, which is on newsstands now.

Transport / Japan

Stuck in reverse

The governor of Japan’s Yamaguchi prefecture has been forced to pay almost ¥21m (€144,000) after he tried to use taxpayer money to buy a luxury Toyota. Outside Japan, Toyota is most commonly associated with well-made and affordable (if unglamorous) vehicles. In its home country, however, the car-maker also sells its Century model (pictured), an opulent leather-drenched saloon that rivals any German equivalent. It’s the go-to ride for the Imperial family, VIP guests on state visits, CEOs and the prime minister.

Governor Tsugumasa Muraoka is none of those things, though, so the chief judge of Yamaguchi’s district court described his failure to stop the purchase as “a negligence, a violation of his obligations to command and supervise,” informing him to foot the bill himself. Muraoka will find himself chastened by the ruling but Japan is a world leader in public transport and its thriving car industry offers plenty of more humble options.

Image: Akatre

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

Benjamin Clementine

Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine is known for his genre-defying music, soulful voice and poetic lyricism. He joins Robert Bound in the studio to discuss his new album And I Have Been and its creation high in the Santa Monica hills, his musical influences and his affinity for snakes.

Monocle Films / Global

Meet the photographers: Rena Effendi

In our latest film series, we meet and celebrate some of the people behind our iconic photography reportage. In our first episode Istanbul-based photographer Rena Effendi (pictured) talks about her process, why she shoots on film and her assignment to Libya in 2021. She had never been to Tripoli before but was soon won over and captured a mesmerising mix of full-blown glamour, oddness and a perhaps unexpected order and calmness. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.


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