Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has died after a heart attack, according to medical and government sources.
They say the 78-year-old was rushed to a hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday after collapsing, but was dead on arrival.
Mr Mutharika was a former World Bank economist who had been accused of despotism and mishandling the economy in the impoverished southern African nation in his final months, Reuters reports.
Many people viewed him as an autocrat responsible for chronic shortages of fuel, food and foreign exchange.
The constitution makes clear that Vice-President Joyce Banda is first in line to take over as head of state in although his expulsion from the ruling party in 2010 may complicate the transition.