The Government of Malawi has been a multi-party democracy since 1994. Under the 1995 constitution, the president, who is both chief of state and head of the government, is chosen through universal direct suffrage every 5 years. Malawihas a vice president who is elected with the president. The president has the option of appointing a second vice president, who must be from a different party. The members of the presidentially appointed cabinet can be drawn from either within or outside of the legislature. Malawi’s National Assembly has 193 seats, all directly elected to serve 5-year terms. The constitution also provides for a second house, a Senate of 80 seats, but to date no action has been taken to create the Senate. The Senate was intended to provide representation for traditional leaders and the different geographical districts, as well as various special interest groups, such as women, youth, and the disabled.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary.Malawi’s judicial system, based on the English model, is made up of magisterial lower courts, a high court, a Supreme Court of Appeal, and a constitutional court. Local government is carried out in 28 districts within three regions administered by regional administrators and district commissioners who are appointed by the central government. Constitutionally mandated local elections are to be held 1 year after presidential and parliamentary elections. The first local elections in the multi-party era took place in on November 21, 2000, and the UDF party won 70% of the seats. The second round of local elections, originally scheduled for May 2005, were never held. Local elections were again scheduled for May 2010, but these elections have been indefinitely postponed as well.
Transparency International’s Worldwide Corruption Perceptions ranks Malawi in 88th place in the world out of 174 countries. In fact Malawi is one of the least corrupt nations in Africa.
Democracy is notably better bedded down here than other sub saharan countries. Nonethless that democracy was tested recently when the former President Bingu wa Mutharika (elected in 2004) hinted in 2011 that he might make himself president for life, banned protests against his rule and expelled Britain’s High Commissioner for suggesting he was becoming a dictator.
But nature intervened and Bingu wa Mutharika died in office in April 2012.
That enabled the Vice President Joyce Banda – according to the constitution – to be sworn in as president and become Africa’s second ever female head of state.
Since then President Banda has initiated reforms (including firing the hated head of police) and deepened Malawi’s democratic roots.
She has already started to elevate women’s status is this very patriarchal society - something which could raise living standards and life expectancy.