The southern African state of Malawi will vote in elections for the presidency and national assembly today, with the ballots of rural and younger voters expected to prove decisive.
Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party has faced a tough re-election campaign amid a series of corruption scandals involving foreign aid funds. The two frontrunners among the eight candidates, Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera have both cast themselves as clean-handed, anti-corruption figures.
Candidates will have to deal with demands for more jobs—particularly from those under 30, which make up more than half of all voters. One in five Malawians are unemployed, a situation that has been exacerbated by severe rural drought over the past decade. Incumbent President Peter Mutharika is hoping that his pledge to spend $3.5 billion on infrastructure projects and jobs programs will attract youth support. Saulos Chilima is pledging to create one million jobs across the public and private sectors and trim the size of government.
With all three candidates having similar policies focused on corruption and job creation an increase in foreign aid, which was cut in 2013, will be crucial to achieving their policies. While Mr Mutharika is expected to carve out a slim re-election, without an effective anti-corruption program he may struggle to attract the foreign funding necessary to fulfil his pledges.
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Kai looks at security and political turbulence in the emerging market economies and also serves as a publisher with The Daily Brief.