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Counting votes in Lilongwe. Photo: Amos Gumulira/AFP via Getty

It was not easy to force Malawi's president, Peter Mutharika, from power after a rigged election last year.

How it happened: It took the anger of protesters, the restraint of the army — which protected them rather than cracking down — and the bravery of judges who threw out the result despite attempts to intimidate them. It also took a united opposition. Finally, last week, it took a new election.

The latest: Malawi's electoral commission over the weekend declared Lazarus Chakwera, an opposition leader and former preacher, the runaway winner.

Why it matters: This is a surprising victory for democracy in the southern African country, and it could have ended very differently. Martha Chizuma, who leads Malawi's Human Rights Commission, hopes it will permanently shift Malawi's political trajectory:

"People have seen how politics affects their daily lives. For the past 13 months or so, Malawi’s democracy has matured, probably ten times over. The people of Malawi are quite awake now. I don’t think any Malawian will ever take any rubbish again."
Martha Chizuma, writing in The Continent

What to watch: The new government faces major challenges, and the surge of optimism may not last. But with democracy under strain around the world, Malawi has bucked the trend.

Go deeper

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.

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