Friday 13 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 13/10/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyński (centre) is the talk of the town

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Annabelle Chapman

Age of change

As Poles go to the polls on Sunday, the socially conservative Law and Justice party (abbreviated to PiS) is on shaky footing. Since coming to power in 2015, the party has tightened its grip on the media and the courts, resulting in a protracted dispute with Brussels. Meanwhile, its veteran leader, Jaroslaw Kaczyński, has repeatedly portrayed migrants and the LGBT community as a threat.

Despite PiS’s hold over Poland’s institutions, the party is not yet guaranteed a third four-year term. One recent poll gave it 37 per cent of the vote, ahead of the main opposition alliance led by former prime minister Donald Tusk, which is close to 30 per cent. The centrist Third Way party, The Left party of the centre-left and the far-right Confederation party are all on about 10 per cent. This would give PiS 170 out of 460 seats in the Sejm, the lower chamber of parliament. Even if it manages to form a coalition with Confederation – its most likely partner – it will not reach a majority.

Over the past 10 years, Polish society has changed significantly. For one, it has become more diverse, in part due to the influx of about one million Ukrainian refugees since February 2022. Crucially, demography is not on the 74-year-old Kaczyński’s side. The balance of the electorate is shifting as a new generation of voters comes of age: a recent poll found that 78 per cent of Poles in the 18-29 age group will not vote for PiS (compared to one-third of voters over the age of 60). Right now, the election is too close to call and much will depend on how many parties get into parliament. But one thing is certain: PiS’s time is running out.

Annabelle Chapman is Monocle’s Warsaw correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Affairs / Israel

Siege mentality

Israel’s new emergency government has vowed to change the “strategic reality” of the Gaza Strip, as it tightens its siege on the region. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops continue to amass in the south of the country in anticipation of a suspected ground offensive against Hamas. The new wartime cabinet will be led by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Yoav Gallant and his predecessor Benny Gantz, who has vowed to “wipe this thing called Hamas off the face of the Earth”. As well as allowing for operational collaboration, the new government is aiming to mend Israel’s fractured society that, before the recent emergency, had roiled during months of protests against a controversial judicial reform. When the time comes for normal politics to resume, many commentators believe that Netanyahu will be forced out of office. “If you ask me, I think he is done,” Ksenia Svetlova, a Middle East analyst and former Knesset member, tells The Briefing on Monocle Radio. “According to recent polls, an overwhelming majority of Israelis hold him responsible for the country’s failures.”

Finding a voice: ‘Yes’ supporters rally in favour of the referendum in Sydney

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Australia

Down to the wire

The Australian public will vote tomorrow in the country’s first referendum in nearly 25 years. Prime minister Anthony Albanese’s proposal aims to alter the nation’s constitution to create an advisory body of Indigenous Australians to weigh in on government policy. Those in favour say that the amendment will finally address persistent inequalities; those against believe that it could create a permanent divide in the country.

In recent weeks, the “No” campaign has been gaining momentum, with recent polls suggesting that 56 per cent of Australians are set to reject the proposal. “Indigenous people face real problems that, surprisingly, have not been well-known enough to motivate others to support change,” Thomas Mayo, an Indigenous activist, tells Monocle Radio. But despite the unfavourable polling figures, Mayo is still optimistic that a “Yes” vote will win out. “There’s a much more positive response than what the polls are reflecting. We’re going to fight until the very last ballot is cast.”

Listen to ‘The Daily’ today on Monocle Radio to hear more on the referendum, including Andrew Mueller’s interview with Thomas Mayo.

Image: Sean Jackson

Photography / New York

On a roll

New Yorker flâneurs might have noticed a shiny, silver Airstream trailer parked in different locations around the city in recent months. For the past year, Brooklyn-based art space Worthless Studios has been touring the suburbs with its mobile photo lab, Free Film, distributing rolls of 35mm film and serving as a darkroom for resident photographers. Stops so far have included Red Hook, the Lower East Side and the South Bronx, while more are scheduled in Sunset Park and the Brotherhood Sister Sol youth centre in Harlem.

The project presents an inspiring example of how a grassroots scheme can provide vital resources to emerging artists. Resident photographers receive a $2,500 (€2,350) stipend along with materials. A selection of between 100 and 200 images drawn from submissions on the theme “One Square Mile” will be displayed in an exhibition at Worthless Studios. In an art world dominated by anxieties over AI and phone photography, such a celebration of analogue is refreshing.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: NYSE

Photo of the week / New York

Notes on a sandal

The leadership team of Birkenstock jumped for joy as the German footwear company made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The 249-year-old purveyors of cork-soled leather sandals set a price of $46 (€48.53) per share for its initial public offering, valuing the company at $8.6bn (€8.14bn). Despite the company’s huge growth in recent years, it had a slightly disappointing debut with shares down 12.6 per cent at the end of play, signalling that some investors are still wary of new listings at a time of market volatility.

Monocle Films / Design

Made in Bavaria

Bavaria’s rich manufacturing heritage shows that there is more to the region than the Alps, sausages and beer. Monocle Films takes a tour behind the scenes of renowned art-materials manufacturers Faber-Castell, Gmund and Theresienthal to explore how traditional ways of making have endured as a result of familial entrepreneurship.


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