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.
I'm filing today from Indiana University's beautiful campus. I'll be moderating a panel tomorrow morning at the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.
The only president Kazakhstan has known since independence is stepping aside, though not really down.
The big picture: With Nazarbayev’s surprise announcement, Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika ending his re-election bid, and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir wobbling in the face of mass protests, the time feels ripe to take a look at the current world leaders who’ve held power the longest.
Between the lines: As regular readers may have picked up on, I’m fascinated by what Putin’s next move might be when he runs up against constitutional term limits in 2024.
Nazarbayev offers a different path, and one Putin will surely be watching closely.
In the Russian case, Alina Polyakova of Brookings argued recently that there is likely no successor who could guarantee the safety of Putin, his family and his assets. She expects some testing of public opinion through state TV ahead of whatever Putin's next move may be.
Meanwhile, Africa is home to half of the 24 longest-serving leaders and 5 of the top 7. There are two major reasons Africa’s longtime leaders have been able to retain power, according to Council on Foreign Relations analysis:
Flashback: Eight years ago, before the Arab Spring, this would have been a considerably different list. Since then, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali have fallen — not to mention Mugabe, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Angola's José Eduardo dos Santos.
What to watch: There are a number of leaders not currently on our list who are working to ensure they join it.
It's not over till the general sings. Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha at a major rail project in Bangkok. Photo: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images
Thailand’s election season has featured generals, populists, royals — and a wildly uneven playing field.
The big picture: The ruling military junta, led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, overthrew a democratically elected government in 2014. The generals will try their luck at the polls on Sunday, albeit after bringing in a new constitution that means they’re likely to win even if they lose.
Why it matters: Turnout for the election is expected to be high. The junta hopes for a carefully managed process that gives it more legitimacy and the confidence of Western leaders and foreign investors. Thai politics are volatile, though, and there could be a surprise in store.
A giant manifestation of Netanyahu's Trump-centric campaign, in Tel Aviv. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
President Trump announced in a tweet today that the U.S. will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel first captured from Syria and occupied in 1967, then effectively annexed in 1981.
Why it matters: Trump's move is a major boost for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Israel's April 9 elections. It's also a huge policy shift that could have repercussions for American policy toward other occupied areas in the world, like Crimea, Axios contributor Barak Ravid writes.
Barak interviewed Pompeo today in Jerusalem, and the secretary of state issued a warning unrelated to the elections: If Israel doesn't limit its ties with China, the U.S. could reduce intelligence sharing and security cooperation.
Why that matters: Netanyahu has in recent years undertaken a diplomatic initiative to dramatically enhance trade with China, Barak writes. Pompeo said he told Netanyahu: "If certain systems go in certain places, then America's efforts to work alongside you will be more difficult and in some cases we won't be able to do so."
Chinese President Xi Jinping at the National People's Congress in Beijing. Photo: Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Rome today to plant a flag in the heart of Europe, writes GZERO Media's Gabe Lipton:
What to watch: Italy is expected to break with most other advanced economies by formally signing onto Beijing's $1.3 trillion global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The big picture: Announced in 2013, BRI aims to boost China's trade and international clout through massive new investments in roads, railways and ports across the world. Italy's decision to sign onto the initiative — the centerpiece of Beijing's plans to overtake the U.S. as the dominant global economic power of the 21st century — is controversial.
Within Rome, too, there is some disagreement: Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, of the centrist Five Star Movement, is all for closer relations with Beijing, but far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is more skeptical.
More broadly, Europe is already having trouble finding consensus on how to approach China's tech investments, 5G equipment suppliers and infrastructure investments.
The bottom line: The decision of the bloc's fourth-largest economy to embrace Beijing has just opened up a major new fault line within Europe.
Guaidó addresses the media after his chief of staff was arrested. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/ AFP/Getty
Former Brazilian President Michel Temer, who led the country from 2016 to 2018 after his predecessor Dilma Rousseff was impeached, was arrested today on corruption charges stemming from the sprawling Car Wash investigation.
Why it matters: Temer has been dogged by corruption allegations for years (he denies them) and was a deeply unpopular president. His arrest comes after a corruption case against leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gripped the country, and it could challenge claims that the anti-corruption probe is a partisan enterprise.
Meanwhile in Venezuela: "[O]pposition leader Juan Guaidó’s top aide was taken away in the middle of the night by masked intelligence agents who broke down his door early Thursday," per AP.
We're now 8 days out from the Brexit deadline with no clear picture of what's about to happen.
A new Pew survey takes the temperature on how the U.K. and 9 other EU countries feel about the union.
Good news: Respondents across the 10 countries tend to think the EU promotes peace (74%), promotes democratic values (64%), and promotes prosperity (55%).
Bad news: They tend to think the EU is intrusive (51%), inefficient (54%), and doesn't understand the needs of its citizens (62%).
Riot police and an avian observer during a protest in El Salvador over the privatization of water services. Photo: Alex Peña/Getty Images
"Health care costs are too high that is true but comparing us to Finland is ridiculous. Ask them how their health care is. You won’t like their answer."— Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Twitter. Lots of Finns chimed in to say their health care was among the best in the world, thanks for asking.
Thanks for reading — see you Monday evening.