Nearly seven million Malawians will have the chance to vote for a new president today in one of the most unpredictable elections in the country’s history.
Questions over President Peter Mutharika’s fitness to run for another term have led to a split with his vice-president, Saulos Chilima.
Mr Chilima had been handpicked by Mr Mutharika as his running mate for the last election in 2014. But a year ago, the president’s sister in-law, Callista Mutharika, suggested that the president, aged 78, was too old to seek re-election and that he should make way for his 46-year-old deputy.
That suggestion faced resistance from some influential members of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The party split into two factions and eventually Mr Chilima left to start the UTM party, but remained the country’s vice-president.
It is not clear if Ms Mutharika is on good terms with her brother-in-law – recently she did not attend the unveiling of her late husband Bingu wa Mutharika’s statue. She is running for parliament on behalf of the vice-president’s UTM party.
Mr Chilima is seen as a populist and has been accused of telling people what they want to hear. For example, with unemployment a major issue, he made the contentious promise that he would create one million jobs in his first year of power.
He appears to be the poster boy for those Malawians yearning for change.
Mr Chilima’s relative youthfulness could work to his advantage, as people between the ages of 18 and 34 make up 54 per cent of registered voters.
Mr Chilima’s wife, Mary, has entered the battle to win over these young voters by becoming a rapper.
In a music video, as well as rapping, she is dancing, using colloquial phrases familiar to young people and is dressed like them.
She has also fronted campaign adverts targeting female voters.
Seven candidates will be on the ballot paper for the presidential election, but only three have a realistic chance of winning.
Although women make up 56 per cent of registered voters, there are no women among the candidates vying for president.
Former President Joyce Banda, who lost to Mr Mutharika in 2014, withdrew from the race to support Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). –BBC