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Joyce Banda Withdraws from Malawi Presidential Race


FILE - Former president of Malawi Joyce Banda attends a summit in New York, Sept. 20, 2016.

Former Malawian president Joyce Banda, the country's first female leader, has withdrawn from the May presidential election to support the main opposition candidate, Lazarus Chakwera.

Ackson Kalaile Banda, spokesperson for Joyce Banda's People's Party, said the group decided to work with the Malawi Congress Party, or MCP, because they realized no opposition candidate can win the May election alone.

Joyce Banda became the country's first female president in 2012, after then-president Bingu wa Mutharika died following a cardiac arrest.

However, her term was marred by a corruption scandal known as Cashgate in which over $32 million was siphoned out of government coffers.

FILE - Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the main Malawi opposition party, gives an interview to Agence France Presse (AFP) at his MCP headquarters in Lilongwe, Jan. 24, 2019.
FILE - Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the main Malawi opposition party, gives an interview to Agence France Presse (AFP) at his MCP headquarters in Lilongwe, Jan. 24, 2019.

More than 70 suspects, including business persons and top Banda administration officials, were arrested.

Foreign donors suspended contributions toward the country's budget, and Banda lost the 2014 election to the late president's brother, current President Peter Mutharika.

Eisenhower Mkaka, the secretary general of the MCP, told VOA that the new deal with Banda's party is a major boost toward a Chakwera victory.

"Dr. Joyce Banda still commands some support," Mkaka said. "And her pulling out of the race means that those who were behind her will rally behind Chakwera."

Political analyst Vincent Kondowe says Chakwera would do better without Banda.

"Because Joyce Banda is burden that MCP will have to explain in as far as the Cashgate is concerned," Kondowe said. "And furthermore, here is a candidate who lost elections when she was an incumbent. That should tell you a story about her political acumen."

But Mkaka disagrees, noting that Banda has never been prosecuted for any role in Cashgate.

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