Malawi’s ex-president Joyce Banda eyeing next year vote

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Malawi’s ex-president Joyce Banda, who recently returned home after four years of self-imposed exile, on Monday said she was ready to run in next year’s presidential elections if nominated by her party.

Banda, 68, fled in 2014 when she lost power after being embroiled in a massive graft scandal in which government officials siphoned off millions of dollars of public money.

She told AFP that she will contest at her People’s Party (PP) elective convention due in coming months.

“The power to choose a torch bearer rests with the people,” she said. “If they chose me, yes, I will stand.”

Malawi, one of the world’s poorest and aid-dependent countries, will hold presidential, parliamentary and council elections in May 2019.

Banda founded the PP in 2011 after splitting from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is led by President Peter Mutharika.

She was Malawi’s first female president, serving from April 2012 to May 2014, but analysts say she stands little chance of victory in the next polls.

“Her chances of winning are very slim. Her party is in tatters. The decision to leave the country for so long eroded trust of Malawians in her leadership,” said Henry Chingaipe, a political scientist at the University of Malawi.

Her downfall came in part from the so-called “Cashgate” scandal, the biggest financial misconduct in the country’s history.

Ministers, civil servants and businessmen were accused of pocketing money from government coffers through ghost companies which did not provide any services to the state.

The scandal prompted foreign donors — who provide around 40 percent of Malawi’s budget — to pull the plug on aid worth around $150 million (129 million euros).

Banda says she did nothing wrong and that the allegations against her are politically motivated.

After she returned to the country in April, police said an arrest warrant against her was valid, but two months later she has been neither charged nor arrested.