Malawi president to step down
Johannesburg - Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has promised to step down at the end of his current term in 2014, saying he is not a ruler for life, media reports said on Monday.
"For the record collection, I am not a life president. Indeed I am alive, but I am not a life president," he was quoted in the Nyasa Times as telling students over the weekend.
"I am retiring in 2014," he said.
Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, is seen as becoming increasingly autocratic in the landlocked and impoverished southern African nation. He was elected to a second five-year term in 2009.
His fights with the West over politics and economic policy have left the country without desperately needed foreign donations and an assistance plan from the International Monetary Fund is frozen.
Key exports - especially agricultural goods such as tobacco - are in decline, further hurting the economy, which is also seeing rapidly rising inflation, pushing higher the cost of living.
The finance ministry last week said the aid flows were even less than expected and despite austerity measures the government now predicts a $121m budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.
Last July, Malawi was rocked by huge street protests, in what the opposition said was an Arab Spring-inspired revolt against the curtailing of political freedoms and the economic tailspin.
After 20 protesters were killed by police in a two-day crackdown, the demonstrations ended, but observers note that discontent is still wide-spread as people feel the tightening economic crunch.