Blantyre - Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika, who is leading a minority government, has been endorsed as his party's candidate in 2009's presidential elections, a party official said on Wednesday.

"The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has unanimously resolved to present to the Malawi electorate Dr Bingu wa Mutharika as the party's candidate for the presidential race of May 19, 2009," Hetherwick Ntaba, the party's secretary general, said.

The presidential poll is being held simultaneously with legislative elections.

Ntaba, who was a top aide to late dictator Kamuzu Banda, said Mutharika's nomination was unopposed.

He said the decision to endorse Mutharika was taken by the party's national governing council at its weekend meeting. The party is scheduled to hold a convention later this year.

Mutharika, tipped by political analysts to win the race, will run against his arch-rival, former president Bakili Muluzi, and key opposition figure John Tembo of the Malawi Congress Party.

Mutharika, 76, turned against his one-time mentor by ditching Muluzi's United Democratic Front to form his own party soon after the 2004 elections.

Muluzi had ruled this impoverished southern African nation from 1994 to 2004, after wrestling power from Banda in the country's first democratic elections.

He reluctantly handed over power to Mutharika, after failing to change the constitution to allow him stand for a third consecutive term.