Parliament building in Lilongwe, Malawi

Political situation Reforms still too tenuous

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 slipped into a severe crisis.

Economic growth, which had been above average for years, declined considerably at that time. Following Mutharika's death, his successor Joyce Banda managed from 2012 to execute a swift political U-turn towards greater democracy and good governance. She also introduced urgently needed economic reforms.

In May 2014, Peter Mutharika, a brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, was elected as the country's new head of state and head of government. He carried on the reform process. The implementation of these reforms, however, has not been vigorous enough to steer the country out of its perennial political and economic crisis. It has been a case so far of treating the symptoms rather than changing the actual system.

Presidential elections were held in May 2019 and won by incumbent Peter Mutharika. However, in February 2020, the Constitutional Court declared the election invalid due to rigging, and in May the Supreme Court confirmed the annulment. Therefore, in June 2020, the elections were repeated. This time, opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera won and was declared president.

Governance: corruption is widespread

Reforms are very slow to be implemented because state authorities are underfunded and understaffed. The country's development is also hampered by corruption and nepotism. And there is little political will to introduce any real changes in this respect. In the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International for the year 2019, Malawi ranks 123rd out of the 180 countries evaluated.

Malawi has numerous civil society organisations which, as a rule, can go about their business unhindered. They are also involved in political processes on a regular basis. However, moves are being made to place non-governmental organisations under tighter legislative control.