Malawi: Electoral system

Updated February 2019

Legal basis[1] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, 1994
Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act (Chapter 2:01) (amended 1994, 1997, 1998)
Electoral Commission Act (Chapter 2:01) (ammended 1998, 2010)
Political Parties Act, 2018
Local Government Elections Act (Chapter 2:01) (ammended 1996, 1999)
Local Government Act, 1998
Electoral system Parliamentary Elections: Single member plurality (first-past-the-post) system multiparty elections[2].
Presidential Elections: President is directly elected concurrently with Parliament by a plurality[3].
Election period Concurrent Parliamentary and Presidential elections every 5 years[4].
Electoral institutions Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
Chief Elections Officer (CEO)[5]
Functions of electoral institutions MEC: To delimit constituencies, determine election petitions, to direct and supervise elections (including voter registration and education)[6].
CEO: Executive arm of the Commission[7].
Independence of electoral institutions MEC: Chairperson a judge nominated by the Judicial Service Commission and appointed by the President. Members appointed by the President in consultation with the leaders of political parties in the Assembly. Members may be removed by the President, on advice of the Public Appointments Committee, for incompetence or incapacity[8].
CEO: Appointed by the Commission and answerable directly and only to it[9].
Demarcation The Independent Electoral Commission is responsible for delimitation every five years, which is submitted to the National Assembly for approval [10]. There are 193 constituencies.
Voter registration Periodic registration.
Registration on voters roll with registration officers at ad hoc constituency centres. Voter required to provide some form of official identification and is issued with a registration certificate[11].
No provision is made for expatriates to vote.
Voter education The MEC is tasked by law with the conducting of voter and civic education[12].
Nomination of candidates Parliamentary Elections: Candidates are nominated by means of a nomination paper signed by 10 registered voters in the constituency concerned and the payment of a fee[13].
Presidential Elections: Nominations must be accompanied by the endorsements of 10 voters from each district and the payment of a deposit[14]
Funding of political parties Any party that has obtained 10% or more of the vote in the previous parliamentary election is entitled to public funding[15].
No limits are placed on the amount a candidate may raise or spend, or on the sources that funds may be received from. No provisions made for donation or spending disclosure[16].
Election campaign In 2004 a code of conduct was issued by the National Elections Consultative Forum (NECOF) governing the political activity of parties and candidates[17]. The election campaigning period is two months, and end 48 hours before polls open[18].
Communication Parties are guaranteed equal news coverage in public media, but paid advertisements are prohibited. In 2004 a code of conduct was issued by NECOF[19]
Counting After the close of the poll ballot the votes are counted by the Presiding Officer in the presence of political party representatives[20].
Announcement of results The Presiding Officer provides party representatives with the results and posts them at the polling station[21]. The results and all documentation are forwarded to the Returning Officer who makes summations in the presence of party representatives. The Returning Officer publicly announces the results for each constituency. Everything is dispatched to the MEC which determines and publishes national results[22].
Conflict resolution Election petitions and complaints are handled by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). Appeals against the MEC rulings are made to the High Court. Election petitions of the Presidential result must be received by the High Court within 48 hours of closing of polls[23].
Election monitoring Observers are accredited by the MEC and their rights and duties are established by law[24]. In 2009 a Code of Conduct was issued to observers[25].

Table notes

[1] Constitution 1994; EISA 2004, 6; Commonwealth Local Government Forum Undated, 136.
[2] Constitution 1994, Article 62.
[3] Constitution 1994, Article 80; Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 49(1). Neither the Constitution nor electoral law specify clearly the plurality system, but the High Court has interpreted the legislation as such (EISA Election Update, op cit, p 10).
[4] Constitution 1994, Articles 67, 83.
[5] Constitution 1994, Article 75; Electoral Commission Act (1998), 12.
[6] Constitution 1994, Article 76(2); Electoral Commission Act (1998), 8(1).
[7] Electoral Commission Act (1998), 12(3).
[8] Constitution 1994, Article 76(1); Electoral Commission Act (1998), 4(1).
[9] Electoral Commission Act (1998), 12(1)-(4).
[10] Constitution 1994, 76.
\ [11] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 21-24. In September 2006 the MEC announced that its efforts at rectifying the voters' register before the 2004 elections had failed and that it was going to scrap the existing register and reregister voters afresh.
[12] Electoral Commission Act (1998), 8(1)(j).
[13] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 37(2), 45.
[14] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 49(1), 50.
[15] Constitution 1994, Article 40(2).
[16] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 66.
[17] NECOF was set up as a collaboration between the MEC and electoral process stakeholders. See EISA 2004, 19, 20.
[18] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 57.
[19] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 63(1); EISA 2004, 19, 20.
[20] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 92.
[21] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 93(2), (3), 94.
[22] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 95, 96, 99.
[23] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 97, 113, 114; Constitution 1994, Article 76(2)(b), (3), (5)(a).
[24] Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act 1993, 107, 109, 110
[25] MEC 2009 Code of Conduct For International Observers.


COMMONWEALTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT FORUM UNDATED "The local government system in Malawi", [www] (accessed 22 Feb 2010).


EISA 2004, [www] Election Update: Malawi 2004, no. 1.

MEC 2009 Code of Conduct For International Observers.