Former President Joyce Banda

Malawi Political System

According to commit4fitness, Malawi has a presidential system of government headed by a five-year state president, who is not only head of state but also head of government and commander in chief of the armed forces. Malawi is a classic central state, which is divided into three regions (north, south and central) and 28 districts.


From May 2004 until his unexpected death on April 5, 2012, Bingu wa Mutharika was Head of State and Government. He was able to prevail with a relative majority in the elections, which international observers judged to be largely democratic. Since Muluzi was constitutionally no longer allowed to run for another term of office, he almost single-handedly appointed the hitherto relatively unknown economist and deputy central bank chief as the UDF’s presidential candidate. It was only with massive campaign support from Muluzis that the uncharismatic technocrat Mutharika was elected president with a relative majority of the votes cast. At the end of January 2005 he resigned after differences with the UDF and founded his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). At first this could not find an anchoring in the political landscape of Malawi. The president did not have a majority in parliament. There the UDF and the former unity party MCP had come together to form an informal opposition alliance and thus massively hindered the work of the government. The state budgets were passed with the votes of the opposition only after months of hanging games marked by mutual intimidation and tumult in parliament. Important, long-pending legislative proposals could not be implemented by the 2009 elections. marked by mutual intimidation and tumult in parliament, passed. Important, long-pending legislative proposals could not be implemented by the 2009 elections. marked by mutual intimidation and tumult in parliament, passed. Important, long-pending legislative proposals could not be implemented by the 2009 elections.

This power struggle took on almost theatrical features at times and significantly narrowed the political scope of the minority government. The distressed president had to devote himself more to his own political survival than to concentrating on the enormous development tasks. This messy situation has worsened with the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections of May 2009 changed: Mutharika was surprisingly confirmed in office with almost two thirds of the valid votes. His DPP, founded in 2005, won 112 seats. Most of the 32 elected independent candidates (Independents) joined the DPP, which thus had a constitution-changing two-thirds majority in parliament and was fully capable of political action. Mutharika reported on his plans in an interview.


The constitution, which came into force provisionally in May 1994 and finally came into force one year later, was passed by the one-party parliament of the Banda regime a few days before the first democratic elections. It corresponds to western democratic standards and is based on the principle of the separation of powers. In the original draft constitution, a senate was envisaged as the second parliamentary chamber, which – officially for cost reasons – was never constituted and was abolished in 2001 through a constitutional amendment. The constitution provides for a unitary state with a central government, which takes into account the rights of all ethnic groups in the country.

Houses of Parliament

The unicameral parliament currently consists of 193 seats, all of which are elected by the electorate for a period of five years in one-person constituencies based on the British model, using relative majority voting. In the elections on May 21, 2019, no party obtained an absolute majority of the seats. The then ruling party, the DPP, has 62 members. It was about half of the 55 independent deputies supported. The MCP (55 seats) formed the largest opposition party and provided the Leader of Opposition, Lazarus Chakwera. In the office of the President of Parliament (“Speaker”), Catherine Gotani Hara was elected a woman for the first time. She belongs to the MCP. The UDF won 10 seats, the PP of former President Joyce Banda won 5 seats, the new UTM won 4. One seat went to AFORD, another one remained vacant. Since the DPP government at the time did not have a stable majority of its own, bills often had to go through a lengthy consultation process.

After the victory of MCP candidate Chakwera in the court-ordered repeat of the presidential election (June 23, 2020), the balance of power in parliament shifted in his favor. Within the framework of its electoral alliance, the TONSE Alliance (an association of 9 parties), the new government relies on the support of its own MCP parliamentary group as well as on the MEPs of the UTM, PP, AFORD and an increasing number of independent MPs. Since the new government does not have its own stable majority in parliament, compromises have to be negotiated. This strengthens the role of the legislature vis-à-vis the executive.

As the largest opposition party, the DPP provides the Leader of Opposition. This office is held by the experienced and moderate and constructive former cabinet minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa. The UDF has announced that it will also remain in opposition. The most important committee chairs – as provided for in the constitution – went to opposition members.

The constitution (Article 65) prohibits members from transferring to another party if they do not want to stand for a by-election. An exception applies to independent MPs who can become members of another party without losing their seat.

Parliament is the sole legislative state body. In addition to the state budget, all important public offices (e.g. police chief, ambassador, attorney general) (with the exception of cabinet members) must be confirmed by the Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee.

After President Bingu wa Mutharika moved into the New State House as the presidential palace after his election in 2004, parliament had to give way and was relocated to various buildings in the city. Only for the Chamber was there no other venue. The ballroom remained the meeting place. Especially during the minority government (2005-2009) this had caused problems again and again, as the spatial proximity between the legislature and the executive was not always free of tension.

The construction of a new parliament building was agreed with Taiwan. Construction work came to a standstill when Malawi severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established new ones with the PRC (December 2007). Beijing continued construction of the building, which was officially opened on May 21, 2010.

Former President Joyce Banda

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