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14.03.2019 Malawi

Malawi's Banda Quits Presidential Race, Backs Opposition Chief

Joyce Banda served as Malawi's president between 2012 and 2014.  By AMOS GUMULIRA (AFP/File)
LISTEN MAR 14, 2019
Joyce Banda served as Malawi's president between 2012 and 2014. By AMOS GUMULIRA (AFP/File)

Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda has pulled out of the May 21 presidential race and endorsed opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, who heads the Malawi Congress Party.

Speaking to AFP, Banda, who heads the People's Party, confirmed her decision, saying: "Yes, it is true".

But she declined to comment further ahead of a joint news conference with Chakwera on Saturday.

In a joint statement, the two parties said they had begun talks in 2015, a year after Banda lost the presidency, partly as a result of a huge multimillion-dollar corruption case known as the "Cashgate" scandal.

She fled the country into self-imposed exile but returned to Malawi last year, saying the allegations against her were politically motivated. She has never faced any charges.

Six weeks ago, Banda and Vice President Saulos Chilima said they had formed a four-party alliance in a bid to take on President Peter Mutharika in the May vote.

But it didn't last long, with Banda announcing just days later that she had submitting papers to run as a presidential candidate.

Now 68, Banda first came to power in April 2012 following the sudden death of then president Bingu wa Mutharika. At the time, she was serving as vice president with his death propelling her into the top office where she served until May 2014.