Malawi’s vice president Saulos Chilima publicly attacked the corruption of the president’s government on Tuesday and announced his resignation from the ruling party, leaving the door open for a presidential run.
Chilima was handpicked by President Peter Mutharika to run alongside him in the 2014 elections on the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) ticket.
His dramatic decision to quit the DPP has exposed a widening rift in the ruling party, which has come under heavy criticism for alleged corruption.
“Despite all the sacrifices that our forefathers made, our nation remains one of the poorest. Nepotism, cronyism and corruption are rampant and only those connected continue to benefit,” he said at a media conference in Lilongwe.
“We must give this country a new lease of life. We must clean this country. We must drain the swamp.”
Chilima’s shock move comes as calls have mounted from within the DPP for him to challenge 79-year-old Mutharika, who has ruled the country for four years.
While Chilima holds no leadership position in the ruling party, several top leaders calling themselves the “Chilima Movement” have called on the 45-year-old VP to oppose Mutharika during the party’s next conference.
Presidential elections are scheduled for 2019.
Chilima said he would “follow the procedure and leave the DPP” and also declined to rule out a run in 2019’s polls.
“I made no decision, no one contacted me,” he said, pledging to announce his decision soon.
Speculation is rife that former president Joyce Banda, who returned home in April after four years in exile following allegations of corruption, could be preparing a bid for the presidency.
Banda, 68, was president of Malawi from 2012 to 2014.