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.
A billboard reading "Thank you Istanbul" after Erdogan's presidential victory last year. The message might be a bit different this time around. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Voters in Turkey’s largest cities have dealt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a sharp rebuke.
Why it matters: A sputtering economy and an uncharacteristically united opposition unleashed a tide of opposition victories in municipal elections across the country Sunday that were widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan.
Catch up quick:
The big picture: Soner Cagaptay, a fellow at the Washington Institute and author of "The New Sultan," tells me that if Erdogan is forced to concede Istanbul, “the idea that he’s the omnipotent president who controls everything will be challenged.”
Between the lines: Erdogan has increased his powers and deepened his control over the media during a tumultuous five-year period in which Turkey has had seven elections, Cagaptay says. That dynamic didn't change overnight. With no further elections scheduled until 2023, this could even be a chance for a reset — but that will depend on Erdogan’s next move.
Cagaptay notes that the apparent victory in Istanbul has launched Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party into the national spotlight.
What to watch: “He could be someone, if he does become mayor of Istanbul, who could challenge Erdogan in 4.5 years’ time,” Cagaptay says of Imamoglu. Having carved that path to power himself, Erdogan will be watching closely.
Fayulu addresses a rally held in Kinshasa to oppose the official election results, February. Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images
Martin Fayulu, the former Exxon executive who election observers said won the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s presidential vote in December, says longtime president Joseph Kabila is still “holding the reins” despite having officially stepped down.
The backdrop: Term limits kept Kabila out of the presidential race, and his hand-picked successor finished third. Despite Fayulu’s clear popularity, though, Congo’s little-trusted electoral commission declared another candidate, Felix Tshisekedi, the winner.
Speaking today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Fayulu said Tshisekedi had struck a “secret deal” with Kabila that gave him the presidency and the country a “complete defeat of democracy.”
What he’s saying: “The Congolese people understand that they have been sold out and ... that this is simply a new extension of the Kabila system, a system that was not able to bring solutions to the people for 18 years … and is certainly not going to be able to do so under a president in name only.”
The bottom line: I asked Fayulu how Kabila could be convinced to give up the reins. He said the first step, ensuring he was off the ballot in December, was accomplished. Now, he says, “you have to let the truth of the elections be known.” Fayulu said a "compromise solution" would then be possible, but "under this compromise, Kabila would have to leave completely.”
Waiting for Guaidó? Caracas residents line up for water. Photo: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images
It has now been 10 weeks since Juan Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president and was immediately recognized by the U.S. and a string of other countries.
The big picture: The cataclysm that seemed so imminent in those early days hasn't arrived. Now Guaidó, Nicolás Maduro and external powers including the U.S. and Russia are testing one another’s limits, and wondering when the decisive moment might come.
The bottom line: This game of tug of war has already lasted longer than some were expecting. So far, no one in Venezuela seems to be winning.
A presidential backhand? Zelensky at his campaign headquarters following the election. Photo: STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Just a few days after the season three premier of "Servant of the People," in which comedian Volodymyr Zelensky plays Ukraine's president, Zelensky easily won the first round of Ukraine's actual presidential election.
In Slovakia, another political newcomer was elected president on Saturday. Zuzana Caputova is an environmental lawyer and activist.
A bumbling assassin stuck in a Ukrainian jail with a list containing a dead man's name, along with five others.
Not a bad start. It gets better as the NY Times' Michael Schwirtz untangles a gripping tale with a twist. Here's a taste:
"Each person on the list was assigned a code name related to flowers. One was ‘briar.’ Another was ‘buttercup.’ The target, a man named Ivan Mamchur, was called ‘rose.’ To Mr. Smorodinov, he was a nobody, an electrician who worked at the local jail. To the handlers in Moscow, though, he was significant."
Pompeo (L) and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri last month in Beirut. Photo: Jim Young/Pool/AFP
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the Lebanese government during his latest visit to Beirut that Hezbollah and Iran have set up a new covert factory for precision missiles on Lebanese soil, Axios contributor Barak Ravid scoops.
Why it matters: U.S. sources briefed on the matter tell Barak that Pompeo based his warning on intelligence he received from Israel. Israel is greatly concerned about Hezbollah's manufacturing of precision missiles but hasn't responded with military force out of concern that it could lead to an all-out war.
1. "Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will resign by the end of April, his office announced in a statement Monday carried by the country’s state media, following weeks of massive street protests calling for the end of his two decades in power," per the Washington Post.
2. The U.K. "House of Commons on Monday rejected all 4 alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal for the second time. The U.K. leaving the EU without a deal remains the default option on April 12," Axios' Zach Basu writes.
3. Saudi Arabia obtained Jeff Bezos' private data and considers the Washington Post "a major enemy" in the wake of the paper's aggressive reporting on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, security consultant Gavin De Becker (who was hired by Bezos) writes in The Daily Beast.
Cherry blossom season has arrived in Tokyo. Photo: Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images
“The arrival of Spaniards 500 years ago to present-day Mexican territory cannot be judged in light of contemporary considerations."— The Spanish government, rejecting Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's demand for an apology over abuses committed by the conquistadors.
Thanks for reading — see you Thursday!