A trusted ally and important party financier is resigning from Malawi's Cabinet and the party of which he is vice president in a blow to President Joyce Banda as she tests her popularity in her first election.

Transport Minister Muhammad Sidik Mia, 49, said in an interview Saturday he wants to reflect on his future. But he's coy about rumors he is being courted as a running mate for the opposition presidential candidate.

Political analyst Edge Kanyongolo at the University of Malawi said Mia's departure is a "body blow" as Malawi's first female leader makes her debut at elections in May. Banda became president in 2012 when the former president died.

Banda's adviser Elias Wakuda Kamanga played down the development, saying it would not hurt the party or the president.