Africa Asia Europe North America South America Oceania
You are here: Home > Africa > Malawi

Malawi Politics

State and politics

During President Hastings Kamuzu Banda's one-party state (1966-94), Malawi was more equal than most African states, with stiff state control of the media and merciless persecution of all opposition, including political assassinations. Only the Catholic Church could express cautious criticism. The one-party state was abolished by a new constitution in 1994. However, the country is still grappling with major corruption problems and other democratic shortcomings.

Political System of Malawi

GOVERNMENT

The president is both the head of state and the prime minister and appoints the government. The term of office is five years with the possibility of re-election. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how MW can stand for Malawi.

Parliament has 193 members, who are elected for a five-year majority in one-person constituencies.

Common to the political parties is that they tend to have limited regional support, either in southern, northern or central Malawi, and therefore can rarely offer a national alternative.

Policy

The decade following the introduction of the multi-party system was dominated by the United Democratic Front (UDF), which became the largest party in the 1994 and 1999 elections. Its founder, Bakili Muluzi (born 1943), defeated former dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda in the first free presidential election and was re-elected five years later. Attempts by Muluzi to change the constitution so that he could run for another term failed, however.

The band's formerly single party Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has maintained a strong position and has been Parliament's second largest party after all the elections since 1994, with the exception of 2004, when it received the most mandate of all. On the other hand, the UDF also retained the presidential power through Bingu wa Mutharika's (1934–2012) election victory. He broke out of the UDF in 2005 and formed a new party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Prior to the 2009 elections, both the president and his party had strengthened their positions. Mutharika received 66 percent of the vote and was re-elected for another five years in power. The DPP got its own majority in parliament with 113 seats. In April 2012, Mutharika died unexpectedly. According to the constitution, the Vice President should step in in such a situation, but the leading DPP representatives tried to prevent Vice President Joyce Banda from taking over the presidential post. The reason was that Banda was excluded from the party in 2010 after she criticized the increasingly authoritarian Mutharika. After a couple of days, however, Banda swore the presidential order and thus became South Africa's first female head of state.

The May 2014 elections were conducted under almost chaotic forms. Ballot papers were missing in many places and polling stations did not open on time. In addition, the electronic voting system stopped working. Banda, even before any official results were presented, claimed that there were irregularities and blamed them on the opposition. She declared that she annulled the election results and demanded new elections in which she promised not to run. However, the Supreme Court rejected her request and after the votes in some districts were recalculated, Banda conceded defeated.

President was elected Peter Mutharika, brother of former President Bingu wa Mutharika, who received 36 percent of the vote; Banda came in third with 20 percent of the vote. In the parliamentary elections, DPP received 50 out of 193 seats, MCP 48 seats and Banda's party People's Party (PP) 26 seats; an entire 52 seats went to independent candidates.

Joyce Banda went into exile after being accused of corruption but returned to her homeland in 2018. She eventually chose not to run for the 2019 presidential election but instead stood behind MCP's Lazarus Chakwera (born 1955). Vice President Saulos Chilima (born 1973) also challenged Peter Mutharika. In mid-2018, Chilima left the DPP, which he accused of corruption and nepotism, and founded the United Transformation Movement (UTM) party. During the year it was revealed that a food company that received government contracts deposited a large amount of money into an account that Mutharika controlled. However, the country's anti-corruption agency released the president on the grounds that the money was intended for the party, not the president personally.

During the vote, the opposition filed close to 150 complaints and the vote counted temporarily. The official result showed that the incumbent president received the most votes (39 percent) and Peter Mutharika was sworn in for a second term. DPP retained its position as the largest party before the MCP; more than 1/4 of the members were party political unbound.

Judiciary

The highest court in Malawi is the Supreme Court of Appeal, under which there is a High Court and a number of general courts. However, an important role is played by the special courts that apply traditional customary law (Traditional Courts). The legal system is otherwise based on English law, supplemented and modified by local legislation. The death penalty remains in the legislation but is de facto abolished in 1992.

Heads of State

Presidents

1966-94 Hastings Kamuzu Banda
1994-2004 Bakili Muluzi
2004-12 Bingu wa Mutharika
2012-14 Joyce Banda
2014- Peter Mutharika
Other Countries in Africa

Politics eZine Copyright 1999 - 2020 All Rights Reserved