Officially: Republic of Malawi; Dziko la Malaŵi.
Seat of government: Lilongwe.
Status: Democratic.
Structure: The president is elected directly, by simple plurality. The legislature (National Assembly) is elected through geographical constituencies.
Chief governing party: Democratic Progressive Party.
Head of government: Peter Mutharika, DPP, president.
Opposition parties: People’s Party, led by Joyce Banda; Malaŵi Congress Party, led by John Tembo; United Democratic Front, led by Bakili Muluzi.
Recent history: Dictator Hastings Banda (1961-94) led the state to independence in 1964, but constructed a one-party state (of the MCP) and committed numerous abuses, killing thousands. The UDF won a solid plurality in 1994 elections for both parliament and the presidency to end the dictatorship; Muluzi (1994-2004) became president, but he and his successor and protégé Bingu wa Mutharika (2004-12, brother of Peter), gradually became more worrisome. The Roman Catholic church, which helped bring multi-party democracy in the first place, began openly speaking about corruption during Muluzi’s presidency, and working to retain term limits, which Muluzi had been pushing to remove. Muluzi abandoned the effort; but his UDF claimed dubious 2004 presidential elections for Mutharika, while the MCP became the largest party in parliament. Mutharika left the UDF in 2005, and it withdrew its support from the government. Mutharika formed the DPP with support from independents and former UDF members. Meanwhile, Muluzi challenged the term limits in court, arguing that the limits only apply to consecutive terms, but lost. Mutharika was reelected in 2009, though the result depended partially on biased state media, and brought charges of fraud from MCP candidate Tembo. The same election led to a parliamentary majority for the DPP. Mutharika died in office in 2012; his death was not immediately announced, while his cabinet apparently searched for ways to prevent the accession of his vice-president, Joyce Banda, who had left the DPP; but she was eventually sworn in. In the 2014 election, Banda stood but finished third, behind Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera of the MCP; the DPP won a plurality in the assembly, while the PP finished close behind in votes but far behind in seats, and the MCP finished third but won a disproportionate share of seats, nearly equal to the DPP.
FH: 4-4, partly free (democratic). Econ: 5.13 (99), hybrid.
Updated: 2015 March 8.