Wednesday. 25/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Hannah Lucinda Smith

Dividing lines

The date is now set: Turkey will hold elections on 14 May. And it’s just what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured, on far right) wants. Over the coming weeks, his face will appear on thousands of billboards and pressure on his opponents will rise. After 20 years in power, Erdogan effectively controls almost every institutional corner of the state, from its electoral board and central bank to the media. But elections are among the last vestiges of democracy in Turkey and the opposition can still win – so long as it can break free of his spell.

The ongoing economic crisis has tarnished the president’s reputation among business leaders and he has lost the support of the Kurds, who once made up a significant portion of his base. At the age of 68, he struggles to connect with Generation Z; this year six million young people will vote for the first time. It’s a bloc that could swing the result if it can be persuaded to go to the ballot box. Under conditions like these, an opposition victory would be assured in most countries.

Yet polls show that while voters are drifting away from Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, they remain unconvinced by the opposition. The biggest hurdle is finding a figurehead who can rival his undeniable charisma. Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul’s mayor and the most popular opposition figure, was taken out of the running when he was banned from holding political office last month. Meanwhile, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the likely candidate, has struggled to inspire on the campaign trail. Policies are another problem; despite innumerable meetings, the coalition of six opposition parties has yet to come up with any bold ideas.

The president continues to set the narrative and there seems to be little uniting his rivals except a desire to see him go. To win this election, the opposition urgently needs to offer something new – just as Erdogan did a generation ago.

Hannah Lucinda Smith is Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / New Zealand

Labour pains

New Zealand swears in its 41st prime minister today, following the official exit of Jacinda Ardern. Christopher Hipkins (pictured) – or “Chippy”, as he is more commonly known – was the unanimous choice of the ruling Labour Party, which controls a majority of seats in parliament. The 44-year-old politician, a trusted member of Ardern’s inner circle, has a reputation for being a political fixer and having a weakness for sausage rolls. He became a familiar face to voters as education minister after he took on the additional task of leading the country’s coronavirus response. Hipkins has now been given the daunting job of leading his party into a general election in less than nine months’ time. With Labour’s popularity tanking, the opposition National Party is the favourite to win in October. Chippy has claimed that working with Ardern made him a kinder politician. His parliamentary colleagues, however, are surely banking on his political savvy.

Image: Alamy

AVIATION / SOUTH AFRICA & MADAGASCAR

Only connect

South Africa and Madagascar will soon re-establish flight connections after a two-year hiatus. South African regional carrier Airlink has announced that it will be relaunching its route between Johannesburg and Antananarivo at the end of the month. The long pause on flights is thought to have been the result of a diplomatic spat between the two nations; Madagascar issued a ban on all commercial flights from South Africa after the latter refused to return three Madagascan citizens and more than 70kg of gold that they were caught trying to smuggle through Johannesburg in late 2020.

The relaunch of the flights is a cause for celebration for businesses trading between the two African nations, as well as for passengers who had to take circuitous routes via other countries to reach their final destinations. In a tough time for international airlines, the biggest winner might be Airlink. Before the ban, the Johannesburg-Antananarivo connection was one of its top-five most profitable routes.

Image: Hydar Dewachi

Culture / UK

Call of the wild

Yesterday, London’s Natural History Museum (pictured) launched “The Wild Escape”, an art project celebrating the UK’s biodiversity, which will involve more than 500 museums across the nation. The initiative encourages schoolchildren to engage with the wildlife already on display in museums and galleries (the Natural History Museum is home to more than 80 million specimens), and create art in response to it. The contributions will be brought to life in a digital artwork that will be unveiled on Earth Day, which is on 22 April.

“The project will show how the UK’s museums can encourage new forms of creativity, encouraging children to take ownership of one of the defining challenges of our lives,” said Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, one of the organisations behind the initiative. Given the discussions about climate change at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, increasing younger people’s awareness of the natural world is of utmost importance.

Image: Joan Minder / Napulé

F&B / Switzerland

Slice of the action

Neapolitan pizza is loved around the world: the subtle art of making its fluffy-yet-crisp dough is even included in Unesco’s list of intangible cultural heritage. Despite pizza’s geographical origins, however, Italy isn’t the only country getting in on the game – a fact recognised by Gambero Rosso, one of Italy’s most respected wine and restaurant guides, which also hands out annual gastronomic awards.

Since 2016 it has named the best pizzeria outside the motherland; this year, the coveted prize has gone north of the Alps to Switzerland, where Napulé, a restaurant chain with six outlets, has been named the best foreign pretender to the pizza crown. Napulé’s Naples-born founder impressed the jury with his use of local ingredients, including his homemade “verace Napulé” flour. His efforts earned him Gambero Rosso’s highest rating of three spicchi. Impressive, whichever way you slice it.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Spain’s top tracks

This week, Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco listens to the songs at the top of the charts in Spain.

Monocle Films / Portugal

Portuguese problem-solving

Lisbon-based architect and artist Joana Astolfi takes us on a journey into the Portuguese word “desenrascanço”, meaning to find an improvised solution to a problem. She explains what it says about Portuguese culture and how it is embodied by an unusual structure in Comporta. Read more stories from the country in Portugal: The Monocle Handbook.

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