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Published: Monday March 17, 2014 MYT 3:41:34 PM
Updated: Monday March 17, 2014 MYT 3:43:00 PM

Two killed in Malawi campaign violence - police

BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Two people were killed late on Sunday in a clash between supporters of Malawi's ruling party and the opposition, police said, triggering concerns that violence could mar the build-up to national elections in May.

A police officer and a civilian died in what police said was an ambush that followed a rally by President Joyce Banda in the tea-growing district of Thyolo, about 20km (12 miles) east of the commercial capital of Blantyre.

The area is a stronghold of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led by Peter Mutharika, brother of former President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died of a heart attack in 2012.

"We are concerned that the DPP, which has a track record of violence, wants to resume its terror and intimidation tactics," said Elias Wakuda Kamanga, an official advisor in the office of the Presidency.

No one was immediately available for comment from the DPP.

Malawi is due to go to the polls on May 20 in what are expected to be closely contested presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

Banda has won acclaim in the West for austerity measures and moves to bolster the economy of the aid-dependent southern African country.

But steps such as an IMF-backed devaluation of the kwacha currency have stoked inflation, raised the price of food for the rural poor and eroded her domestic support.

(Reporting by Frank Phiri, editing by David Dolan and Andrew Heavens)

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