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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

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Biden says $1,400 stimulus payments can start going out this month

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Biden said Saturday that the Senate passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package means the $1,400 direct payments for most Americans can begin going out later this month.

Driving the news: The Senate voted 50-49 Saturday to approve the sweeping legislation. The House is expected to pass the Senate's version of the bill next week before it heads to Biden's desk for his signature.

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