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.
Supporters of the opposition People's Democratic Party in the town of Jimeta. Photo: Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images
With Nigeria’s presidential election just two days away, two political heavyweights are competing to lead the African giant through a critical four years.
Why it matters: The winner will govern a country with massive unfulfilled economic potential and worsening humanitarian and security crises. There are fears a bruising and close-fought election could give way to violence and instability.
Incumbent Muhammadu Buhari made history in 2015 — three decades after he was toppled as a military strongman — by becoming the first opposition candidate to defeat a sitting president.
Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, represents the People’s Democratic Party, which ruled Nigeria for 16 years until Buhari’s election. This is his fourth run for the top job.
Both men are in their 70s. Both are Muslims from Nigeria’s north. Neither is proposing transformative reforms. “This is kind of their last bite at the apple before a younger generation comes in,” Page says.
The big picture: The population has doubled over the past two decades to 200 million and is set to double again by 2050 — at which time Nigeria will have the third-largest population on Earth.
John Tomaszewski, Africa director for the International Republican Institute, says that beyond who wins, it’s essential that this election keeps Nigeria’s democracy moving forward.
The bottom line: “Nigeria needs to get this right for Nigeria, first of all. That will have reverberating effects all around Africa but also for Europe. This is an important election for the world,” Tomaszewski says.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Russia is planning to sever itself temporarily from the global internet, ostensibly to prepare the country to deal with a digital attack that would leave it cut off, Axios' cybersecurity reporter Joe Uchill writes:
Meanwhile, in New Delhi: "India’s government has proposed giving itself vast new powers to suppress internet content, igniting a heated battle with global technology giants and prompting comparisons to censorship in China," the NY Times reports.
MBS (L) and Sisi in Cairo. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Egypt's parliament today essentially cleared the way for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to rule through 2034. Constitutional changes that "would demolish ... safeguards [Sisi] introduced in 2014" are now on track for approval "within three months," per the NY Times.
Meanwhile: Members of Congress have taken a series of steps since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to pile pressure on the Saudis, and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump has rebuffed them at every turn.
A right-wing protest against Prime Minister Sánchez on Sunday in Madrid. Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
Two connected showdowns are gripping Spanish politics:
More from Lipton on the trial:
Why it matters: Sánchez was only able to form a government last year with the support of pro-independence Catalan parties. Now, he has lost it. New elections mean Vox's strength will be tested.
Pence speaks. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images
Vice President Mike Pence today called on America’s European allies to exit the Iran deal and chastised them for what he called “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”
While the summit left many observers perplexed, one notable aspect was that Israel and several Arab countries were present — though the Palestinians were not.
"Is this how they shake at NATO summits, Mr. President?" L-R: Rouhani, Putin, Erdogan. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Turkey skipped the Warsaw gathering. Instead, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a Syria summit in Sochi with Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
What to watch: “Almost five years after the militant group’s lightning sweep across parts of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is surrounded on all sides and the SDF expects to declare victory within days,” the Washington Post’s Louisa Loveluck reports from Syria.
Flower farming in Kenya. This is as close as I'll get to a Valentine's Day reference (hope yours is lovely). Photo: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images
"Someone told our reporter last night, be silent or you're next. I am appealing to you not to be silent, even if, and especially if, you're next. You have to express outrage like I'm doing now."— Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, a news site in the Philippines that has been targeted by the government. Ressa spent last night in jail before being released on bail
Thanks for stopping by — have a wonderful weekend.