Government Politics of Malawi

Last elections: May 2014 (presidential and parliamentary)

Next elections: 2019 (presidential and parliamentary)

Head of State: President Professor Arthur Mutharika

Head of Government: the President

Ruling party: Democratic Progressive Part

Speculation that President Bakili Muluzi would decide to stand for a third term at the 2004 election, requiring an amendment to the constitution, ended in July 2002, after a narrow majority of parliamentarians had voted against such an amendment. Then in April 2003 Dr Bingu wa Mutharika was confirmed as the presidential candidate of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF). Muluzi appointed four Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) members as cabinet ministers and AFORD agreed to support the UDF candidate at the next election.

In a close contest in May 2004, Mutharika (UDF) won the presidential election with 35.9 per cent, John Tembo of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) coming second with 27.1 per cent and Gwanda Chakuamba (Mgwirizano Coalition) third with 25.7 per cent. In the simultaneous parliamentary elections MCP took 60 seats, UDF 49, Mgwirizano Coalition 16 and UDF’s ally AFORD six. Though both the ruling UDF coalition and the MCP claimed to have won presidential and parliamentary elections, Mutharika was sworn in as President and formed a government while the opposition mounted violent protests. In the succeeding weeks the President secured the support of first Chakuamba and then the National Democratic Alliance. However, in February 2005, with the support of majority of his cabinet, Chakuamba and a number of MPs, he left the UDF to form a new party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

In the presidential election in May 2009, Mutharika received 66 per cent of votes, a substantially higher share than in 2004. His main challenger, MCP leader Tembo, took 31 per cent. In the parliamentary elections, the ruling DPP won 114 seats, the MCP 26, the UDF 17 and independents 32.

Before the elections former President Muluzi made a further attempt to run for the presidency. The electoral commission ruled that he was not eligible because he had already served two terms, the maximum allowed by the constitution. Muluzi appealed this decision in the High Court, which upheld the electoral commission’s ruling. He later made an appeal to the Constitutional Court, which also upheld the ruling.

Following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika on 5 April 2012, Vice-President Joyce Banda was sworn in as President on 7 April

In February 2012 Mosisili and 44 other members left the ruling LCD to form a new party, the Democratic Congress (DC).

A general election in May 2012, with Commonwealth observers present, resulted in a peaceful transfer of power when Pakalitha Mosisili was succeeded by ABC leader Tom Thabane, the first change of PM since 1998. Mosisili’s DC won 48 seats, the ABC 30, the LCD 26 and the BNP 5. Though the DC had the most seats it did not have a working majority; the three opposition parties agreed to form a coalition government; parliament elected Thabane prime minister; and he was sworn in on 9 June 2012.

In a closely fought presidential contest, on 20 May 2014, the DPP candidate, Peter Mutharika, secured 36.4% of the vote, defeating the MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera (27.8%) and incumbent President and People’s Party leader Joyce Banda (20.2%).  Mutharika was sworn in as President on 31 May 2014. The Commonwealth observer group that was present at the election said that ‘for the most part, voting was conducted in a peaceful, orderly and transparent manner’ and that ‘the polling environment was generally conducive to the free expression of will by the electorate.’ In the concurrent parliamentary elections 52 seats were secured by independents, 50 by the DPP, 48 by the MCP, 26 by the People’s Party and 14 by the UDF.