Malawi: Constitution

Updated February 2019

CONSTITUTION Constitution came into effect May 18, 1995 after serving as a transitional constitution for a year. Amended 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2010[1]
FORM OF STATE Republic
HEAD OF STATE The President is the Head of State and government, as well as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces[2]. The President is directly elected concurrently with the National Assembly[3]. The President is restricted to a maximum of two consecutive terms of office and presidential candidates must be over 34 years of age and the nominations must be endorsed by 20 registered voters in each district. To win a candidate requires a simple majority of valid ballots cast[4]
EXECUTIVE Executive power lies with the President exercised through a First and Second Vice-President and the Cabinet[5]. The First Vice-President is elected on the same ticket as the President. The Second is appointed, if appointed, by the President from another party than the President's, while the cabinet members are appointed by the President[6]
LEGISLATURE Legislative Power is vested in a parliament consisting of the President and the National Assembly[7]. The National Assembly consists of 193 members representing constituencies, directly elected by universal adult suffrage. The life of the Assembly is five years[8]. The Senate was abolished by a constitutional amendment in 2001[9]
JUDICIARY The court system comprises of a High Court, a Supreme Court of Appeal and various subordinate courts; the latter include the Industrial Relations Court and traditional courts[10]. The Chief Justice presides over the Supreme Court of Appeal and is appointed the President and confirmed by 2/3 of the members of the National Assembly. All other judges are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, while magistrates are appointed by the Chief Justice in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission[11]. Judges are removable for incompetence or misbehaviour, on a petition passed by the National Assembly, by the President in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission[12]
AMENDMENTS The bulk Constitution may not be amended in substance or effect except through a national referendum majority of those voting. Other amendments may be made by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly[13]
DEMOCRACY PROTECTION AGENCIES The Malawi Human Rights Commission consists of the Law Commissioner and Ombudsman and five commissioners nominated by the Law Commissioner and the Ombudsman, in consultation with civil society groups, and is tasked with the protection human rights accorded by the Constitution[14].
The Ombudsmanis appointed by the Public Appointments Committee of the National Assembly and is empowered to investigate violations of human rights[15]

Table notes

[1] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994.
[2] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Article 78.
[3] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Article 83.
[4] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Articles 83, 80(6); 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
[5] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Article 93.
[6] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Articles 80(4), (5), 92(1).
[7] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, 49(1).
[8] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Article 62, 67.
[9] Constitutional (Amendment) Act 2001. The Senate was comprised of 80 members, two from each district and 32 others elected by a two-thirds majority of sitting members. One district representative was elected by the District Council while the other had to be a chief who was elected by a caucus of all chiefs in the district concerned.
[10] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Articles 103, 104, 108, 110.
[11] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Article 111.
[12] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Article 119(2)-(5).
[13] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Article 196, Schedule. The Schedule contains a list of articles entrenched in this way. Excluded from this procedure are Articles 14, 48-76, 78-102, 104-110, 112-113, 115-118, 120-194, 198-215 which may be amended in substance or effect by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly.
[14] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Articles 129-131.
[15] Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994, Articles 120-128.

References

Constitution of the Republic of Malawi 1994; includes amendments to 2017.

Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act (Chapter 2:01) (includes amendedments to 1998).