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Malawian Vice President Saulos Chilima, a potential candidate for next year’s general elections, died in a plane crash this week, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

Chilima and nine others were flying from the capital Lilongwe to the northern city of Mzuzu on Monday to participate in the funeral of a former minister.

Air traffic controllers instructed the plane to head back to the capital because of bad weather. Contact was then lost, prompting authorities to begin a search operation, the Guardian noted.

On Tuesday, President Lazarus Chakwera confirmed that “everyone in the plane perished” and expressed condolences to the victims’ families. He described Chilima as “a good man, a devoted father and husband,” as well as a “formidable vice president.”

Chilima had been serving as Malawi’s vice president since 2014 when then-President Peter Mutharika picked him as his running mate.

In 2018, Chilima left the ruling party due to dissatisfaction with its anti-corruption efforts, but kept his position as deputy president since he was directly elected. He founded the United Transformation Movement and ran in the 2019 presidential elections, coming third. After the courts annulled the election results, Chilima allied with Chakwera, forming the Tonse Alliance, which won the 2020 elections, and Chilima became vice president.

In June 2022, President Chakwera stopped delegating duties to Chilima following his implication in a corruption probe involving $150 million in state contracts.

Authorities detained Chilima five months later under numerous charges, including accepting a $280,000 bribe. He denied any wrongdoing. The case was dropped earlier this year.

The vice president was a popular figure among Malawi’s youth and was projected to become an important power broker in the 2025 elections, with neither the ruling Malawi Congress Party nor its rival, the Democratic Progressive Party, expected to secure a majority.

Observers suggested he would also run for the presidency, even as he never explicitly declared his intention to run.

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