Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Malawi’s political rights rating improved from 4 to 3 due to a fairer and more competitive presidential election in 2009, greater electoral participation by women, and women’s subsequent representation in governing institutions.
In the May 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections, President Bingu wa Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party secured comfortable victories. Observers noted that the polls were more fair and competitive than in previous years, though incumbents enjoyed certain advantages, including positive coverage from government-run media outlets. While the climate for the judiciary improved during the year, the government failed to address ongoing corruption and bias in state-run media.
International donors, which account for 80 percent of Malawi’s development budget, have widely applauded economic management under the Mutharika administration. In December 2007, the United States announced Malawi’s eligibility for financial support under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) initiative. Separately, the IMF approved a $77.2 Million Exogenous Shocks Facility for Malawi in late 2008, making it the first country to receive funds under the facility. While relations with international financial institutions have been positive, President Mutharika criticized their policies in November 2009, claiming that they had contributed to foreign exchange shortages in the country. Dramatic improvements in agricultural output, partially credited to a popular fertilizer subsidy program, have helped the country to achieve solid economic growth rates over the last few years. The economy grew at a rate of 5.9 percent in 2009.
Malawi is an electoral democracy. The president is directly elected for five-year terms and exercises considerable executive authority. The unicameral National Assembly is composed of 193 members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. The 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections, though characterized by an uneven playing field in favor of the incumbents, were the most fair and competitive since the first multiparty elections in 1994. While in previous years opposition groups had questioned the impartiality and legitimacy of the MEC, key observers concluded that it operated during the 2009 elections with sufficient transparency.