Friday 29 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 29/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Opposing sides: Murat Kurum (on left) and Ekrem Imamoglu

Image: Alamy

Politics / Hannah Lucinda Smith

The personal is political

Turkey’s local elections, which will be held on Sunday, are less about choosing local leaders and more about testing the state of the opposition. The outlook does not look good.

An opposition coalition of secularist, nationalist, Islamist and Kurdish parties fell apart last year, following its defeat in the parliamentary and presidential elections, amid rows over the choice of presidential candidates and the security of ballot boxes in Kurdish regions. This weekend each party will be fielding their own candidates, splitting the anti-Erdogan vote.

This could result in the opposition losing control of Istanbul, which they have held since the last local elections in 2019. That year opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu narrowly defeated his rival, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, ending 25 years of Islamist rule in the city that had begun with Erdogan’s election as mayor in 1994. There was then outcry when the electoral board overturned that result. In the rerun polls, the main Kurdish party withdrew its candidate, allowing Imamoglu to gain a conclusive victory.

Imamoglu has put his stamp on Istanbul since then, expanding the public-transport network and opening scores of new cultural facilities, despite facing pressure from the central government, which has found ways to cut the city’s budget. He is by far the most popular and charismatic opposition figure – but Turkey’s general dejection of the opposition has cast a shadow over him too. Many have said that hey will not bother to vote and polls show Imamoglu just a couple of points ahead of his rival, former urbanisation minister Murat Kurum. Defeat is a real possibility.

Erdogan is skilled at personalising elections in which he is not a candidate and this time is no different. He has announced that they will be his last as he eases towards retirement, while working to secure his legacy and successor. Reclaiming Istanbul would be a serendipitous start.

Hannah Lucinda Smith is Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Affairs / China & Philippines

Words of warning?

Relations between the Philippines and China have further deteriorated this week following an escalation of tensions in the South China Sea. In a public address, Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos Jr vowed that the country would take countermeasures to combat aggression from Beijing. His comments follow an incident last week that saw China’s coast guard fire a water cannon at a Philippine boat on a supply mission, subsequently injuring some of its soldiers. China and the Philippines, as well as neighbouring Taiwan and Vietnam, have laid claim over stretches of the busy waterway. Yet Marco Jr’s vocal response has drawn criticism, with some warning that the Philippines will miss out on investment from its top trade partner. The US, however, has voiced solidarity – and it is clear where Manila’s allegiance lies. Next month will be Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s fourth trip to Washington in less than two years.

Image: Alamy

Art / USA

Breaking new ground

Los Angeles’s The Broad museum announced this week that it will build an extension to make more room for its contemporary art displays. New York-based studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which designed the original structure, has been tasked with thinking up a cohesive annex. The proposed expansion, which is set to begin by 2025, bears a close resemblance to the swooping grey interiors of the existing museum.

The Broad has been an architectural attraction ever since it opened in 2015 but the relative lack of exhibition space did a disservice to its collection, particularly when compared to the more expansive real estate of other major institutions in town such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As the museum continues to buy new work, the 70 per cent extra gallery space will come in handy to ensure its scope can encompass even more.

Image: Luiss

Diplomacy / Italy & Africa

Continental shift

The Young Italian-African Diplomatic Fellows Programme brings African diplomats aged under 35 to Rome to study international relations at the Luiss School of Government. The programme is part of an effort by Rome to win hearts and minds in Africa in 2024. It complements the €5.5bn Mattei Plan, which aims to boost economic ties with Africa in exchange for helping to control illegal immigration.

Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has staked her success on stopping immigrants crossing the Mediterranean. But many African leaders, including the chair of the African Union, Moussa Faki, have criticised what they see as its neo-colonial pretensions. The Young Italian-African programme, meanwhile, is unequivocally a soft-power tool. Raffaele Marchetti, professor of international relations at Luiss, says that it will allow “fellows to exchange ideas, opinions and enrich each other’s training”.

This article appears in Monocle’s April issue, which is available on newsstands now.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Shutterstock

Photo of the week / Francis Scott Key Bridge

Bridge over troubled water

The collapse of a motorway bridge in Baltimore’s harbour topped the world’s headlines this week. As issues surrounding the maintenance of the structure and causes of the tragic event are still being investigated by authorities, the event will undoubtedly spark a long-term debate on how to prevent further such disasters.

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Montalba Architects

Swiss-American architect David Montalba founded his eponymous, award-winning international firm in 2004. Montalba reflects on the company’s forthcoming 20th anniversary, the effect of his early experiences working with renowned practitioners on his career and the critical importance of collaboration.


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