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Malawi - Political Parties

Four parties dominate the political landscape. President Mutahrikas party is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). There is also the Peoples Party (PP) of Joyce Banda; the United Democratic Front (UDF), the party of former President Bakili Muluzi now run by his son Atupele; and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) of Lazarus Chakwera, the first party that ruled Malawi for 30 years after independence from Britain. The parliament of June 2014 had a total of 193 seats. The ruling DPP party had 77 seats, the General Assembly 53 seats, the People's Party 26 seats, the Union of 16 seats, 20 members of the Independent Council for the Democratic Alliance . The Speaker was Richard Musuowoya from the Congress Party.

The country in the 2014 elections voted along regional, religious and ethnic lines, to a very high degree. The country is now divided into the PP dominated North, the MCP Center, the DPP South, and the UDF dominated East. The PP is believed to have favoured the North, the MCP is in the blood of the Chewas of the Centre, the DPP is in full control of the Lomwe-belt in the South, and the UDF (once a much bigger party) has retreated into and is now inseparable from the Muslim minority in the East. National politics continue to focus on individuals, rather than ideologies. And, while there are more political parties represented in Parliament, by 2004 support for those parties remained largely along regional lines: the UDF in the Southern Region; the MCP in the Central Region; and AFORD, PPM, and MGODE in the Northern Region.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the ruling party as of 2017. It was established by the former President Bingu Ma Mutharika in 2005. According to the party announced the data, there are 2.5 million party members. It advocated the unity of all Malawians, committed to the restoration of economic growth and poverty reduction. The current chairman is Peter Mautaca.

The Malawi Congress Party ( MCP ) is an opposition party, established in 1944. Formerly known as the Nyalsalan African National Convention, in 1959 it changed the name. From 1964, in the years after independence to 1994, it was the only legitimate political party, the ruling time of up to 30 years. Winning the second most votes in the 2004 presidential elections with twenty-seven percent of the popular vote, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo was Leader of Opposition in Parliament, and since the elections he settled comfortably into that role. The MCP, with more seats in the House than any other political party, is also the most stable voting block. Tembo and the MCP supported the Mutharika administration on some initiatives, such as some of the President's controversial appointments, but they have also been a meaningful opposition to important government issues, such as the budget. The chairman was Lazarus Chuck Vera.

The People's Party was founded in 2011 by the then Vice President Joyce Banda. The party is dedicated to the "unity, equality and development" for the concept of party building, advocated the protection of civil constitutional rights, promote political decision-making democratization, economic liberalization and diversification of export products, vigorously develop industry and commerce, education and AIDS prevention and control, promote employment and safety. Chairman of the chair for Joyce Banda ( after the defeat in 2014 ), now the executive chairman for the Uradi Moussa.

United Democratic Front (UDF), was formerly known since 1992 as the United Democratic Independence Party. Since ruling in 1994 under President Bin Guomu Terica, in 2005 the party became an opposition party. Main figure was Atupele Muluzi. The once right-hand man of former President Bakili Muluzi, Brown Mpinganjira, who in 2001 formed the aggressive anti-UDF opposition pressure group cum political party the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), re-joined the UDF in 2004 after garnering few votes in the 2004 presidential elections. Disgruntled members of the NDA have tried to re-vitalize the opposition group, but the efforts had little traction.

For unilaterally deciding to back the UDF and Mutharika in the 2004 elections, Chakufwa Chihana became largely unpopular in his former Northern Region stronghold, and his Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) party won less than a third of the parliamentary seats it had in 1999. Chihana has recently made unsuccessful attempts to re-gain favor in the North and among AFORD break-away party Movement for Genuine Democracy (MGODE) MPs. Chihana's fickle political nature and unilateral decision-making decimated the usually very solid Northern Region voting block that AFORD once controlled.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice president Gwanda Chakuamba resigned from the leading opposition party and formed the Republican Party on 08 January 2004. After a shaky seven-month marriage of convenience with MCP president and personal nemesis John Tembo, Chakuamba announced his departure was a result of "public demands" that he form a party of his own. Chakuamba controlled a faction of roughly half of the MCP membership. His departure, while not surprising, meant major electoral and party recalculations for the MCP. Without Chakuamba's support (and that of his followers), the MCP was no longer the leading opposition party; it was simply an opposition party among many others.

Sam Kandodo Banda, former AFORD heavyweight, led the internal AFORD faction displeased with Chihana's leadership to form the Movement for Genuine Democracy (MGODE). More so than other parties, MGODE has focused on developing internal party structures, and it has gained some grassroots support in the North Region as the viable alternative to AFORD. Shortly after the elections, MGODE formed an alliance with the UDF and received a minor ministerial position.

Former MCP treasurer Hetherwick Ntaba left the MCP to form his own party, New Congress for Democracy (NCD). Ntaba, who was interim president of the party, told a press conference on 28 December 2003 that he formed the party because of political difficulties he was facing with the MCP's leadership. The once faithful confidant of Tembo, Ntaba had difficulties in the MCP since he attempted to run for the party's presidency at the April 2003 convention. Ntaba, who had been accused of collusion with the ruling United Democratic Front and President Muluzi, was suspended from the MCP's National Executive Committee. Ntaba was popular among a very small group of urban technocrats in the MCP, most of whom were unlikely to leave the patronage system and prestige of an established party. His departure had little real effect on the MCP.

Aleke Banda, former UDF stalwart and Minister in both of President Muluzi's administrations, became the de facto head of the Mgwirizano Coalition when Chakuamba left the coalition to support the UDF. Banda, who had been the Coalition's vice presidential candidate, was elected the President of People's Progressive Movement (PPM) after he left the UDF. He and PPM remained strongly anti-UDF. Reduced from its original strength of seven parties, by 2004 the Mgwirizano Coalition comprised five parties and controlled a handful of seats in Parliament.

Former MCP heavyweight Hetherwick Ntaba, who created the New Congress for Democracy (NCD) party to stand as a presidential candidate, earned himself a ministerial position just before the elections for pulling out of the presidential race and supporting the UDF. In Mutharika's administration, Ntaba was appointed Minister of Health and was largely viewed as a UDF sellout.

International observers and domestic monitors hailed Malawi's 2009 elections as peaceful and credible. While observers noted shortcomings regarding abuse of State media and use of government funds for campaigning, the election still marked a significant step forward in Malawi's democratic development. The results, a landslide victory for President Mutharika and a super-majority in Parliament for his DPP party, shocked analysts and led civil society groups to voice concerns about the future viability of opposition political parties.

For all parties, the major issues are similar and long-standing. Due to lingering suspicion from the days of former dictator Kamuzu Banda, none of the parties have a system in place to register members or track membership. Without membership rolls, internal administrative processes from local committee formation to national party conventions, become dispute-filled affairs. Top leaders dictate who is a "true" party member and who is masquerading. As seen in the 2009 elections' primaries, the important process of selecting candidates further exaggerates these weaknesses leading to internal rigging and corruption and imposed candidates. These problems can be even greater for smaller parties without long histories to help verify true supporters.

Fundraising is another hurdle for parties. Traditionally, parliamentary candidates have self-funded their campaigns, although while in power, the DPP and UDF both liberally used state resources to help candidates. Presidential candidates used the bulk of party resources on their own campaigns, which require comparatively greater resources. The lack of party financial support isolated parliamentary candidates and reduces loyalty. With no mechanism to raise even small contributions from party supporters, most parties seek out large domestic donors or try to raise funds from the Malawi Diaspora. These contributions are privately made and parties are not required to document their sources or amounts of funds nor transparently account for party expenditures. This environment leads to frequent disputes and distrust.

Until the 2009 elections, most party leaders believed they had an inherent regional support base that could not be swayed. These beliefs, supported by historic trends, led to neopatrimonial parties with "big man" leaders. Leaders promoted obedience within parties, limiting internal democratic mechanisms. In this environment, many dissenters created new splinter parties, slowly eroding support. To rise within a party, it also became more important to please the leader than to provide service to constituents. Moreover, this brand of personality-driven politics suffocated organic attempts to form ideological differences that could differentiate parties.

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