After the introduction of the multi-party system in July 1993, three major political parties emerged. In addition to the former Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which has its stronghold in the central region, the home of its founder Hastings Banda, the United Democratic Front (UDF) was formed under Bakili Muluzi with a power base mainly in the southern region and the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) under the party leader Chakufwa Chihana, who died in 2006, with great support in the northern region.
The parties hardly differ in terms of program. All have committed themselves to a western democratic state system, the protection of human rights and a market-based economic system. Ideological differences cannot be determined. The parties are mostly electoral associations for their party leaders. In the run-up to the 2004 elections, there were a number of start-ups initiated by politicians whose ambitions for power were disappointed by their old parties. As a result of internal party difficulties, the AFORD has almost completely disappeared into oblivion. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which was founded by President Mutharika in 2005 after a power struggle with his predecessor Muluzi, was initially a test tube created out of parliament, which, through its brilliant election victory in 2009, has now proven that it has a broad political and social anchorage. Otherwise only the MCP and the UDF have established structures that are limited to their regional strongholds. But they, too, are centered on their leaders and can only survive to a limited extent without them. The organizational structures of the opposition parties suffered greatly from the 2009 election defeat and a lack of financial resources. The DPP managed to win an election victory from the forced opposition, which is a clear success for Peter Mutharika.
The allocation of top positions in the state was felt by some opposition politicians as unfair, as the southern region was preferred. This sparked discussions about the introduction of a federal state consisting of the three regions. However, this discussion was unable to develop its own momentum. A change in the electoral law for presidential elections from simple to absolute majority voting, recommended by a Special Law Commission, was clearly rejected by Parliament in mid-December 2017 with 97 to 65 votes after heated discussion. The absolute majority voting system was vehemently called for by sections of the opposition and sections of civil society, while the government pointed out the high costs of a runoff election.
Afrobarometer has published a survey on the anchoring and perception of political parties. The Malawian scientist Wiseman Chirwa has presented a study on political participation in Malawi in which he calls for a change in the majority voting system. According to computergees, a performance comparison made by Afrobarometer between the presidencies of Bingu wa Mutharika and his successor, Joyce Banda, should be viewed with caution, as it shows weaknesses in terms of method and content.
Protests and violence
On July 20, 2011, anti-government demonstrations took place in the country’s largest cities, leading to an outbreak of violence the likes of which the country had not experienced since the fight against the Banda dictatorship in 1992. The protest marches had been registered by civil society organizations, churches and some opposition parties in order to demonstrate against the almost chronic fuel shortage, problems with the power supply and laws that were perceived as authoritarian.
After legal wrangling, the demonstrations were finally approved by the court, but then abused by violent criminals for looting, pillage and vandalism. These riots were directed not only against institutions of the ruling party and the state, but also against private individuals. The security forces, which were obviously taken by surprise by this violence that was not typical of the country, were unable to master the situation and responded with violent action. 19 people lost their lives. The circumstances of this development were investigated by the Malawian Commission on Human Rights and a report was presented. Meanwhile, the DPP chairman Peter Mutharika apologized for the police violence. Persistent unrest triggered clear criticism of the security forces at home and abroad and led to personnel consequences at the top of the security forces. There were also attacks on journalists. Private radio stations have apparently been temporarily shut down by the authorities to prevent reports of the unrest. President Mutharika announced in August 2011 that he would not tolerate violence and vandalism. There were initially no further demonstrations. The Government of Joyce Banda has the crackdown on demonstrators again examine. It turned out, among other things, that a student who allegedly committed suicide in Blantyre in September 2011 was probably murdered for political reasons. In this context, some higher-ranking DPP politicians were temporarily arrested at the end of October 2012. The availability of foreign currency remained critical at first, which is why the supply of imported goods (especially gasoline, diesel and medicines) could only be improved slowly. This led to general dissatisfaction, especially in the cities. The massive devaluation of the Kwacha by almost 50% in May 2012 triggered numerous strikes to push through salary increases and to offset the rapidly rising cost of living (inflation in August 2012: 25.5%). However, wage increases almost always remained below the inflation rate.