Wednesday 7 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 7/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Politics / Mary Fitzgerald

One man, no vote

These are dangerous days for Senegal, long considered a beacon of democracy in Africa. On Monday there was chaos in parliament when some opposition lawmakers were forcibly removed by security. Then a crucial vote delayed the country’s much anticipated presidential election, initially scheduled for later this month, to December. When I reported for Monocle from Dakar, Senegal’s capital, in October, it was clear that people wanted change, particularly young Senegalese. The news that they will have to wait to cast their ballots has already prompted violent clashes and many fear that worse is to come.

Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, arrives at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa

Image: Reuters, Getty Images

Flying the flag: supporters of opposition candidates campaign following the postponement of Senegal’s election

Image: Reuters, Getty Images

My contacts in Dakar talk of a sense of deep foreboding as Senegal enters uncharted political waters. Since gaining independence in 1960, the West African nation has never postponed a presidential election or, unlike several of its neighbours, witnessed a coup. It wasn’t surprising that the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States expressed concern over incumbent Macky Sall’s decision to delay the ballot. The International Monetary Fund has warned of the risks to what is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Key figures in the country’s vibrant cultural sector are also worried, not least because Dakar is due to host Dak’Art, Africa’s biggest biennial, in May. Sall, who previously insisted that he would not seek a third term, said that he delayed the poll because of a dispute over the candidate list. But others claim that he either wants to stay in power or is worried that his handpicked successor will lose.

Last October the rising anti-Sall sentiment among the younger generation was particularly evident to me. Many support the main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, who is disqualified from running. In June, Dakar was rocked by clashes between Sonko loyalists and security forces. Sall has been a prominent critic of recent coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. By testing Senegal’s constitution in such a way, the once admired statesman might be leading his country down a similar path.

Mary Fitzgerald is Monocle’s North Africa correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Pushing the boat out: an Iranian tank leaves a warship in the Gulf of Oman

Image: Alamy

Defence / China, Iran & Russia

All at sea

Iran, Russia and China announced plans this week to hold joint naval drills aimed at strengthening regional security. According to the announcement by Iranian naval commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, other nations have been invited to participate. The three countries conducted similar trilateral exercises in the Gulf of Oman in March 2023 but this year’s drills come at a time of heightened tension between the Iran-backed Houthi group and US forces in the Red Sea.

“Joe Biden’s administration has not been able to successfully deal with Iran,” Holly Dagres, nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs, tells The Monocle Minute. “Despite some of the rhetoric from Republicans in Washington, Biden says that he does not want an all-out war, so it seems unlikely that it will happen.”

Aviation / Switzerland & South Korea

Eastern promise

Switzerland’s national airline, Swiss, has announced plans to offer direct flights to Seoul for the first time. The new long-haul connection between the flag carrier’s Zürich hub and Incheon International Airport is scheduled to take off on 7 May to coincide with Seoul’s peak summer tourism season. But the service is also geared towards business travellers to South Korea: the country is a key export destination for Switzerland. With consumer appetite for travel growing, the Lufthansa subsidiary has also been busy building up its transatlantic routes – an area of strong demand, according to Lufthansa’s group CEO, Carsten Spohr, who spoke to Monocle for The Escapist. The new Zürich-Seoul service, which will join Lufthansa’s existing roster of non-stop flights to the South Korean capital from Frankfurt and Munich, is a clear indication of the airline group’s ambition to grow.

Image: Turkey Design Council

Architecture / Turkey

Rising from the rubble

It is a year since two devastating earthquakes struck southern and central Turkey and rebuilding efforts are well under way, though the government has been criticised for its slow progress. A team of 13 design practices – including homegrown studios DB Architects and KEYM, as well as international heavyweights BIG and Foster + Partners – has been working on a master plan for Antakya in Hatay province. Expected to be fully unveiled later this year, the plan will ensure that the city will be rebuilt in a resilient, sustainable way.

“We’re building from scratch but it’s important to restore the city’s sense of place,” says architect Loukia Iliopoulou, partner at Foster + Partners. Community engagement is a vital part of the planning process, which seeks to honour Antakya’s 2,300-year-old cultural heritage. “Most people have told us about the importance of streets and local shops but also smells and materials,” Iliopoulou tells The Monocle Minute. “We want to preserve people’s memories of navigating through their city.”

Beyond the Headlines

The List / Paris

On the right track?

As Paris prepares to host the 2024 Olympic Games, city officials are debating ways to offset the predicted summer tourism surge. On Sunday, Parisians voted in favour of increasing the price of parking for SUVs, while authorities prepared to ban key safes to combat the rise of unlicensed holiday apartments. Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has also expressed concerns about the capital’s transport network. Here are three other host cities that she could learn from:

The Greek capital revived its trams for the 2004 Olympic Games to carry spectators from the city centre to venues along its nearby coastline. The system, which carried some 80,000 passengers a day during peak times, is still a great way to get around the city.

Even though the 2020 Olympic Games faced unprecedented challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo authorities insisted on upgrading the city’s metro network. Officials invested in added comfort and security measures, as well as autonomous vehicles for transporting athletes around the Olympic Village.

The city created the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed intercity railway to speed up access to competition zones during the 2022 Winter Olympics. The train line cut travel times between the Beijing, Tanqing and Zhangjiakou zones from more than three hours to just 47 minutes.

Monocle Radio / The Global Countdown

The best of Hungary’s charts

Monocle Radio’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco takes a look at what’s trending on the Hungarian music charts.


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