The introduction of multi-party democracy in 1994 resulted in a new constitution that not only regulates the form of government but also the involvement of the people in the formation of a government and the freedom of the press. It also establishes the separation of powers (independent judiciary) and the protection of human rights for all citizens.
The legislature is characterised by the National Assembly with 193 members. Parliamentarians are directly elected through a district system for a period of five years. In practice, the parliament's position is weak in relation to the president and a centralist executive dominated by the president.
Since the introduction of the multi-party system, Malawi has seen a growing number of political parties, not only within Parliament but also outside it. Many parties were only founded in the run-up to the last parliamentary elections and many of the current political parties came into being as breakaway branches of existing parties. There is a certain concentration of party adherence per district/region. Political activity in Malawi is very personal. As a result, parties often lack cohesion and ideological orientation, resulting in frequent rifts and fragile occasional coalitions. Within this context, the position of the president can traditionally be described as powerful and influential.
The current political situation is described in the history chapter.
Malawi had a centrally planned economy from the beginning of its independence in 1964 until 1994 (end of President Banda's administration). Since then, however, the shift to an export-led, market-oriented economic system has had limited success due to a number of factors, many of which are external and outside of one's control. These include: the geographical "land locked" location and insufficient economic diversification due to the concentration on agriculture, especially tobacco cultivation. Since the latter accounts for more than 50% of exports, fluctuations in world market prices have a considerable influence on the economy. More generally, it is also highly dependent on substantial economic assistance from IMF, World Bank and individual donors. Remittances from workers employed in South Africa and other countries in the region now play only a limited role. Other negative factors are the small size of the domestic market, poor infrastructure, a weak currency and lower than expected domestic and foreign investment.
In the past, the government itself regularly received accusations of a lack of vision and policy. It was also confronted with accusations of corruption and economic mismanagement. The main points of criticism were a comparatively top-heavy government apparatus, insufficient transparency and government expenditure that was too high in relation to income. The new government has indicated that it will take these criticisms on board by forming a smaller cabinet and tackling corruption. Resuming the economic programme with the IMF was a priority for the President. The IMF, World Bank, EU and bilateral donors UK and Denmark had suspended their budget support because of the lack of budget discipline and corruption of Muluzi's government. It is estimated that economic growth will be 4% in 2017. But inflation will also rise due to increases in oil prices and maize prices as a result of the drought. Inflation will reach the 12.2% level in 2017.
Malawi's economic climate remains under constant pressure. Over-focus on a single commodity (tobacco), floods, drought and the resulting widespread lack of food security have resulted in famine in recent years. More than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Domestic political aspects - uncertainty about the government's economic policies, the liberalisation and privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) deemed necessary but only slowly realised, unfavourable tax measures, - and the situation in Zimbabwe as a regional political factor make foreign companies reluctant to invest in Malawi.
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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