Monday 5 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 5/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

A Pakistan Muslim League N (PML-N) supporter waves the party’s flag

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Hasan Ali

Show of arms

As Pakistan gears up for elections this Thursday, polls suggest that the party of the recently imprisoned Imran Khan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), remains the most popular choice. The country’s military, however, seeks to leverage its power to influence the vote.

In the 2018 elections the Pakistan Muslim League N (PML-N), led by three-time former prime minister and current hopeful, Nawaz Sharif, accused the military of rigging the process in Khan’s favour. In the run-up to the elections, Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption grounds. Now, in a reversal of roles, Khan has been handed a sentence of 14 years for illegally selling state gifts, while Sharif has been cleared of all charges.

The Pakistan Army has historically sought to install political leaders whom it can easily influence and, for a time, Khan was willing to comply with this arrangement. It was only in October 2021, when he tried to assert his authority, that his relationship with the country’s top brass soured. He was ousted in a military-sponsored vote of no confidence in April 2022 and his response was to blame the army for colluding with the US to remove him from power. In May 2023 thousands of Khan’s supporters torched and ransacked military buildings across the country, which prompted the army to unleash a brutal crackdown on the PTI.

The military now hopes that Khan’s sentencing might demoralise PTI supporters from voting, handing the election to Sharif. Even if Khan’s support on the street translates to votes in the ballot box, however, the results will probably be tampered with. Barring a miracle, the PTI will not win enough seats to form the next government. Instead, the country will likely be ruled by a coalition of several parties. Pakistan, it seems, is destined to go around in circles.

Hasan Ali is a journalist based in Islamabad. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Affairs / Hungary & Nato

Slow progress

Hungary’s parliament will meet today to discuss the ratification of Sweden’s Nato bid. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, signed Sweden’s accession documents in late January, leaving Hungary as the only Nato member yet to approve the application. While Erdogan held highly structured negotiations with Sweden before ratifying the country’s membership bid, Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who has close ties with Russia, has never stated any reasons for prolonging the process. It remains unclear how many members of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party will attend today’s session. According to an official statement last week, members said that they would wait for a meeting between Orbán and Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, to take place before voting on the issue. With frustration growing among the alliance over delays from Budapest, Nato members will be keeping a close eye on today’s proceedings.

For more on what to expect from today’s Hungarian parliament session, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio from 07.00 London time.

Image: Stockholm Design Week

Design / Stockholm

Inside track

Stockholm Furniture Fair kicks off tomorrow in the city’s Mässvägen trade hall and runs until Sunday. The event, which takes place alongside the 22nd edition of Stockholm Design Week, will welcome more than 200 design studios and brands, as well as interiors enthusiasts from Scandinavia and beyond. The guest of honour at this year’s fair is Milan- and Rotterdam-based design studio Formafantasma, which will create an installation in the entrance hall called “Reading Room”, where visitors can sit to read and reflect on the exhibition.

Other noteworthy participants include Swedish architecture firm Jordens Arkitekter and design studio Folkform. Satellite events will also be held in showrooms and galleries across the city, featuring exhibitions, cocktails and dinner parties. As the presence of other regional events – such as 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen – grows, Stockholm Furniture Fair will hope that it can stay relevant – and in step with the likes of Salone del Mobile and Paris Design Week.

Snow place like it: a sculpture of the Helsinki Cathedral at the 2019 Sapporo Snow Festival

Image: Sapporo

Art / Japan

Icely does it

The 74th edition of the Sapporo Snow Festival began yesterday in Odori Park on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. Some 200 large-scale snow sculptures will be rendered from 30,000 tonnes of snow gathered in the region. The intricate sculptures often depict famous Japanese buildings and castles, as well as pop-culture references from manga, anime and gaming.

This Wednesday, the winner of the International Snow Sculpture Contest will be announced after teams compete to create the most spectacular pieces in front of eager crowds and a panel of judges. This snowy extravaganza is expected to draw about two million visitors from Japan and beyond, who have been advised by the city’s tourism board to bundle up in warm jackets, turtlenecks and long wool coats. Now that’s a way to celebrate the colder months in style.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Issue 170

Cycle of life

The latest velodrome and sports complex to open in Belgium puts its users’ needs front and centre. Monocle visits the wielerdroom in the Belgian province of Limburg to explore how good design can anchor a community.

The ‘wielerdroom’ is a local fixture as a place to watch and play sport

Image: Kevin Faingnaert

Cyclists can bring their own bikes or hire them onsite and people of all ages are welcome

Image: Kevin Faingnaert

Subscribe to read the full article or log in to your account if you are already a subscriber.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Glenfiddich and Club des Chefs des Chefs

We sit down with Struan Grant Ralph of Glenfiddich to savour the past and future of the heritage whiskey brand. Plus: Monocle’s Christopher Cermak joins us in the studio to discuss the world’s most exclusive gastronomic circle: the Club des Chefs des Chefs (pictured).


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