Thursday 18 May 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 18/5/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Box-office ballot

It’s shaping up to be a busy year in Spanish politics. The country goes to the polls twice, including a general election before the end of the year to elect a new prime minister. Before that, though, there are municipal and regional elections at the end of next week, known to Spaniards as “28M”. Something of a snoozefest, right? Nothing of the sort.

Part of the reason is the number of eye-watering scandals. One flare-up has been in the autonomous Basque region and the decision of the pro-independence party, EH Bildu, to field candidates who had been convicted of so-called “blood crimes” from their days as members of terrorist organisation ETA. The seven candidates in question have since withdrawn their names. Or what about Parla, in greater Madrid, where a member of the far-right Vox party, Ana González Martínez, was arrested last week and accused of drug trafficking and money laundering?

For all the drama, the local elections will be a bellwether for the general election. The right-wing People’s Party (PP) can smell a return to power and the dislodging of the left-wing coalition led by Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez (pictured). The PP will be hoping to rout the left in next week’s vote, win key battlegrounds such as Valencia and then take that momentum into the general election.

Sánchez has seen his popularity slide due to the cost-of-living crisis. His party is well behind in Madrid, where Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Madrid’s regional president, could end up winning an absolute majority. All that despite being accused of mismanagement during the pandemic and looking set to deliver only 1,000 new homes by the end of the year having promised 15,000 by the end of her mandate. The left might be scratching its head about why support is dwindling but if it wants to cling on to power, it needs to find a way to turn things around – and fast.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Alamy


Nowhere man

This week, Belarus’s state news channel published a photograph purporting to show the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko (pictured), on a recent visit to a military command centre. The broadcaster was seemingly aiming to debunk rumours of the leader’s ill health – or even death – that spread after a weeklong absence from public events. The uncertainty has brought a sliver of hope to the opposition, whose exiled leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has warned Belarusians to “be ready” for rapid political changes in the event that Lukashenko’s death is confirmed. According to Franak Viacorka, an adviser to Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition is banking on increased support as a result of growing dissatisfaction with the president’s stance on Russia and his backing of its military campaign in Ukraine. However, there are concerns over what could happen in Belarus if the rumours are true. “We wish to have peaceful, non-violent changes but we should be ready for any eventuality,” Viacorka tells The Monocle Minute. “The key unknowns are what Russia plans to do, how to stop it from interfering and how to prevent a possible takeover.”

For the latest on Belarusian politics, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio. Listen live at 07.00 London time at

Image: Getty Images


Up, up and away

Airlines are seeing their fortunes soar as carriers such as Aegean and Thai Airways have recently reported healthy bottom lines, while Singapore Airlines this week announced the highest net profit in its 76-year history. The reason? A boom in bookings to China, Japan and South Korea. Passenger numbers might even exceed pre-pandemic levels by October and various airlines are seizing the moment to place orders for new planes to accommodate them.

Ryanair, Air India and new Saudi Arabian Riyadh Air are among them, while Turkish Airlines says that it might order as many as 600 jets this June. The outlook is good but there could be some clouds on the horizon: there is uncertainty around inflation and supply chains, which could incur unforeseen costs on orders not set to be delivered until the end of the decade. What’s clear is that things are looking up and carriers are taking up the opportunity to put some air between themselves and the competition.

Image: MuvMi

Mobility / Thailand

Ride high

Bangkok’s motorised rickshaws might be synonymous with tourists but the standard of the vehicles and the frequency of their usage has gone up a gear in recent years. Ride-hailing company Muvmi has played a big part in this transformation. Its app allows passengers to book a tuk-tuk just as they would a regular taxi, delivering reliability and eliminating the need to haggle over price. Every Muvmi vehicle, of which there are currently 350 in the city, arrives with a consistent livery that projects professionalism: there are no neon lights or plastic-coated seats.

The biggest selling point is the ride itself. The electric engines are quiet and the larger carriages come with seatbelts and plenty of legroom. Waiting times can be a little long but that will improve as Muvmi rolls out a larger fleet – Muvmi is expecting to be running 1,000 tuk-tuks by the end of the year. Far from being a relic chugging towards the scrapheap, Bangkok’s tuk-tuks have once again become an option for last-mile journeys.

For more solution-based stories on transport and mobility, pick up the May issue of Monocle, which is on sale now. Or subscribe today so that you never miss an issue.

Image: Julien M. Hekimian

Fashion / Global

Hit the mark

Fashion design competitions come and go with the seasons but this week’s International Woolmark Prize, spearheaded by the Australian firm of the same name, remains one of the most significant. Its selections have kickstarted careers, including those of some of the world’s most influential designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino Garavani and Yves Saint Laurent. Woolmark’s initiative aims to broaden its reach beyond the established fashion capitals and spotlight designers working with natural fibres.

This year’s winners (pictured) are setting an example for the broader industry. Lagos Space Program, known for its elegant wool tailoring and work with Nigerian artisans, won the top prize, while Danish knitwear specialist A Roege Hove (notable for its handcrafted knits on traditional looms) received the Karl Lagerfeld Prize. The winners receive AU$200,000 (€122,807) and AU$100,000 (€61,403), respectively. “We’ve been talking about investing in innovation but it has often felt out of reach,” designer Amalie Roge Hove tells The Monocle Minute. “An award like this makes it all possible.”

Image: Ebru Yildiz

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Over the past 20 years, Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have strummed their way from busking on the streets of Dublin to superstardom. The Grammy Award-winning musicians join Robert Bound in the studio to discuss their latest album, In Between Thoughts... A New World.

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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