Parliament building in Lilongwe, Malawi

Political situation Implementation of the reform policy is still slow

The Malawian government is willing in principle to pursue reforms and is development oriented. However, the implementation of the reform plans has not yet reached the level needed to bring about lastingly effective, tangible political, economic and social improvements.

In 2020, Malawi sent a clear signal for the rule of law and democracy: the country’s institutional court declared that the presidential elections held in May 2019 were invalid due to serious irregularities in counting the votes. When new elections were held in June 2020, the opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera successfully beat the incumbent president Peter Mutharika.

In his campaign programme Chakwera promised a structural change, more transparency, adherence to the rule of law and consistent anti-corruption efforts. So far, however, more extensive reform steps have yet to be implemented. Various crises that need to be addressed (weather disasters, inflation because of Russia’s war against Ukraine) have stifled the country’s willingness to engage in reforms. The promised progress has been hampered not least because government agencies are extremely underfunded and understaffed, and because of corruption and clientelism. In the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International, Malawi ranks 115th out of the 180 countries evaluated.

Freedom of opinion and freedom of the press are generally upheld, civil society organisations are able as a rule to operate freely and without any influence being exerted by the state.

Malawi’s level of state debt is cause for concern and has risen significantly in recent years. This is increasingly limiting the budgetary scope for spending on development. The government is striving to stabilise the public budget. It devalued the country’s currency drastically in November 2023 (by more than 40 per cent) and announced austerity measures partially with immediate effect (such as banning the cabinet and public employees from traveling abroad).


Following thirty years of dictatorship, Malawi has succeeded since 1994 in steering a course of peaceful transition to a multi-party democracy. Initially, the country managed to make considerable development progress. In late 2010, however, while under the increasingly autocratic leadership of President Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi slid into a severe crisis. Following Mutharika's death, his successor Joyce Banda managed to execute a swift political U-turn starting in 2012 back towards greater democracy and good governance. She also introduced urgently needed economic policy reforms.

In 2013, the country was shaken by the revelation of the “cashgate” corruption scandal – government officials had been misappropriating public funds on a large scale for years. After the scandal broke, numerous foreign donors stopped their budget support for Malawi; the government was forced to take on more debt in order to close the gap this caused in the public budget.

In 2014, Peter Mutharika, a brother of the deceased former president, was elected as the country’s new head of state and head of government. He carried on the reform process. This included enhancing public financial management, banning child marriages, reforming land rights, revising an ineffective subsidy programme in the agricultural sector and putting a freedom of information law into effect.

In May 2019, presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections took place. In February 2020, however, Malawi’s constitutional court ruled that the presidential election had been invalid. The court noted, for example, that only a fraction of the votes had been counted and that voting slips had been manipulated. New elections held in June 2020 were won by the opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera.

As at: 28/03/2024