Welcome to Axios World, where two evenings a week we break down what you need to know about the big stories from around the globe.
Waiting for results in Kinshasa. Photo: Caroline Thirion/AFP/Getty Images
The ruling party was routed, strongman Joseph Kabila is stepping aside after 18 years, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a chance to complete its first-ever peaceful transfer of power.
Between the lines: Things are nowhere near that simple. There are widespread suspicions that Kabila cut a deal with Felix Tshisekedi, who was declared the winner last night by Congo's electoral commission. The Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 election observers and is one of the few trusted institutions in Congo, reportedly found that another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, was the "clear winner."
The latest: The French foreign minister is among those questioning the official results, which he said were "the opposite to what we expected."
Catch up quick:
The key players:
What to watch: These results are still preliminary. Fayulu's supporters are outraged. Appeals are likely, and violence is possible. We may not have heard the last from this chaotic election.
The bugle tolls for thee, Mr. Nagy. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images
If you want to get a sense of where the political winds are blowing, take a look at the monuments that are going up, and coming down.
1. Nagy, no more. Just a few months ago, on a visit to Budapest, Axios Managing Editor David Nather snapped a photo next to a statue of Imre Nagy, who led an anti-Soviet uprising in 1956.
2. Constitutional offense. A "Constitution Defense" monument in Bangkok commemorating the defeat of a pro-monarchy rebellion in 1933 was removed in the middle of the night two weeks ago. It's not an isolated case.
3. Standing (much) taller. Last October, India unveiled the world's largest statue, celebrating an independence hero.
Speaking of Orban ... For an illuminating look at his rise, ambitions and political skill, check out Elisabeth Zerofsky's profile in this week's New Yorker.
One paragraph that stuck with me:
"Orban thrives on conflict, and those around him say that, having consolidated power in Hungary, he is now a bit bored. 'He thinks he could have been much more powerful if he were from a bigger country,' András Petho, a senior editor at the independent Hungarian news outlet Direkt36, told me. 'He likes maneuvering among the big powers.'"
We dubbed 2018 the "year of the strongman." Nominations now open for 2019's catchy geopolitical nickname. Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Two years of democratic erosion around the world came to an end in 2018, according to the annual index from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). However, gains in countries like Costa Rica were canceled out by declines in places like Nicaragua, and globally we ended 2018 right about where we started it.
The bottom line: Political participation is on the rise, which indicates voters are "not disengaged from democracy. They are clearly disillusioned with formal political institutions but have been spurred into action," per the report.
Go deeper: Download the report.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in for a new term today, following last year's sham election. My colleague Dion Rabouin has a "short list" of the problems he faces in his second term:
"The inaugural ceremony ... drew low levels of attendance from foreign governments," American University's Michael McCarthy writes for Axios Expert Voices.
What to watch: "Trump may be reluctant to get embroiled in Venezuela’s crisis, but his administration’s commitment to righting the regional balance of power in Washington’s favor might spur him to search for opportunities to initiate regime change in Venezuela."
Sudanese protesters at an anti-government demonstration in the capital Khartoum on Jan. 6. Photo: AFP/Getty
Three Sudanese protesters were killed yesterday, three weeks into mass demonstrations against strongman Omar al-Bashir, the leader of one of the world’s most repressive governments
Why it matters: Alex Kliment of GZERO Media writes in the Signal newsletter that "while the protests were initially sparked by economic issues — inflation in Sudan is currently running around 70% — the brutal crackdown has helped stoke broader popular demands for Bashir’s resignation."
"Bashir, a former paratrooper, is a wily and brutal survivor. He first took power 29 years ago in a coup backed by Islamic fundamentalists, and he immediately dialed up the Arab-dominated government’s long-running war against black and predominantly Christian separatists in the country’s oil rich south."
Flashback: "In 2013, he crushed a street movement in the capital that was inspired by the Arab Spring."
The bottom line: "The future of this turbulent African country may be about to take another historic turn."
Athletic Bilbao fans. Photo: David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
From my brilliant new colleague Kendall Baker... Europe's midseason soccer transfer window just opened, giving clubs at the top of the table one last chance to splurge on talent — and clubs at the bottom one last chance to improve.
Former Spanish powerhouse Athletic Bilbao finds itself in 17th place (out of 20) in Spain's top league, La Liga. The bottom 3 teams drop to the second tier.
The big picture: Bilbao has been a member of La Liga since its inception in 1929 and has never been relegated — an accomplishment it shares with only Barcelona and Real Madrid. That could change this season.
Syrian women queue to collect aid at the al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria as winter weather engulfs the region. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty
"Remember, it was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism doesn't stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals — particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed 'a new beginning.' The results of these misjudgments have been dire."— Secretary of State Pompeo today in Cairo, referring to Barack Obama
Thanks for reading — see you Monday evening!