Malawi News & Current Events

Updated September 9, 2022 | Infoplease Staff
Malawi's First Free Elections


Bakili Muluzi of the United Democratic Front (UDF) won the country's first free election in May 1994, ending Banda's 30-year rule. In 1999, Muluzi was reelected. While Malawi was no longer the repressive society it was under Banda, Muluzi's government was tainted by corruption scandals. Senior officials are believed to have sold off 160,000 tons of reserve maize in 2000, despite the signs of a coming famine. In 2002 and 2003, the country faced severe food shortages, with more than 3 million people suffering.

In May 2004, Bingu wa Mutharika, an economist and a crony of Muluzi, was elected president in elections that were widely considered irregular.

Malawi faced its worst food shortage in over a decade in 2005, with more than 4 million people, 34% of the population, without adequate food supplies.

President Mutharika won reelection in a landslide in May 2009 elections, taking 66% of the vote. John Tembo came in a distant second with 30.7%. Mutharika died unexpectedly of a heart attack in April 2012. Vice president Joyce Banda assumed the role of president. Once an ally of Mutharika, the two parted ways in a row over succession—Mutharika had reportedly been grooming his brother Peter to become the next president. She was ousted from the governing Democratic Progressive Party and formed her own, the People's Party. The economy improved under Banda, with the GDP growing from 2% in 2012 to 5% in 2013 and the resumption of international aid.

In March 2013, Peter Mutharika and 11 other current and former ministers were charged with treason for attempting to prevent Banda from taking over as president in 2012.

Banda dissolved her cabinet in October 2013 after 10 government officials were arrested on charges of stealing as much as $32 million in state funds. Cash was found stashed in the cars and homes of the officials. Foreign aid dried up after the scandal. The allegations of corruption and the downward trend of the economy put Banda at a disadvantage in May 2014's presidential election. She faced off against Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera, a pastor. Mutharika, who faces treason charges, prevailed, taking 36.4%. Banda placed third, with about 20%, behind Chakwera, who garnered 27.8%. Banda claimed the vote was rigged.

See also Encyclopedia: Malawi .

U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Malawi

National Statistical Office .