Malawi's Ex-President Withdraws From Vote, Backs Opposition

(Bloomberg) -- Former Malawian President Joyce Banda withdrew her candidacy from elections scheduled for May 21 and said she’d back opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera in the vote.

It’s the second time since February that Banda, who ruled Malawi from 2012 to 2014, has pulled out of the race. Last month, she announced she wouldn’t compete in the ballot, before announcing her candidacy two days later.

Malawi's Ex-President Withdraws From Vote, Backs Opposition

“Malawi is bigger than individuals,” Banda said in a joint statement with Chakwera, the leader of the Malawi Congress Party. “As such we will have to set aside individual aspirations and embrace the greater and common good.”

Banda returned from self-imposed exile last year after spending more than three years abroad following a corruption scandal.

The alliance between the MCP and Banda’s People’s Party is a “game changer” and gives them a strong chance of winning the vote, Ernest Thindwa, a political scientist at the University of Malawi, said in an interview with the Blantyre-based Nation newspaper.

The MCP’s main support base is in central Malawi, while the PP is strongest in the east of the country. In the last election in 2014, Chakwera garnered 1.46 million votes, compared with 1.06 million for Banda. Incumbent President Peter Mutharika won with 1.9 million votes. This year 6.59 million Malawians have registered to vote. 

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