BLANTYRE, Malawi (Reuters) - Malawians vote for a new president, parliament and local government councillors on Tuesday, in an election seen as a tough test for President Peter Mutharika and his governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Impoverished Malawi is heavily dependent on aid from donor nations and has suffered from severe droughts in the past decade that have affected hundreds of thousands of people.
Below are details on four of the main candidates running in the presidential election.
Mutharika, 78, has been head of state since 2014 and is running for a second five-year presidential term.
He is credited with improving infrastructure and lowering inflation in the southern African country. But his rivals accuse him of nurturing corruption, an accusation that he denies.
Analysts say Mutharika won the 2014 election by associating himself with the legacy of his brother, former president Bingu wa Mutharika. He was also helped by the “Cashgate” corruption scandal that engulfed his predecessor, Joyce Banda, in the months leading up to the 2014 election.
“Now President Mutharika must emerge from the shadow of his deceased brother and win these elections purely on his own record,” said Boniface Dulani, a research director at the University of Malawi’s institute of public opinion.
Mutharika has campaigned on a pledge to continue with infrastructure improvements and agricultural subsidies. He is the oldest candidate running for president.
Chilima, 46, is Malawi’s deputy president and a former telecoms executive.
After a falling out with Mutharika he quit the DPP last year to found his own party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM).
Chilima has tried to capture the youth vote at these elections with an energetic social media campaign featuring hip-hop videos. That could prove to be a successful tactic as young people make up more than half of Malawi’s registered 6.8 million voters this time around.
If he fails, some analysts say that could be the end of his political career.
Chakwera, 64, is a former pastor who lost out to Mutharika in the 2014 elections.
He is leader of the country’s official opposition, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Like Chilima, on the campaign trail he has promised to crack down on corruption. At these elections his MCP party has formed an electoral alliance with Joyce Banda, Mutharika’s predecessor.
Analysts say this could be Chakwera’s best chance of reclaiming power for the MCP, which governed Malawi from independence until 1994.
Muluzi, 40, is health minister in Mutharika’s cabinet and the youngest candidate in the race.
He is the son of Bakili Muluzi, Malawi’s second president.
Muluzi decided to take his United Democratic Front party into a parliamentary alliance with the DPP in 2014, which some analysts describe as a strategic error.
Reporting by Mabvuto Banda and Frank Phiri; Editing by Alexander Winning and Frances Kerry