By Elias Mambo – April 26, 2019 – Zim Morning Post

  • 6.8 million registered voters
  • 1331 parliamentary candidates
  • 193 parliamentary seats
  • 501 independent candidates
  • 4 main presidential aspirants

Malawi is heading towards its watershed tripartite elections scheduled for May 21 2019, where the incumbent Peter Mutharika will face his toughest opposition as he seeks his second term in office.

The forthcoming plebiscite will mark 25 years of multiparty politics in Malawi since the end of the one-party regime led by the late president Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Banda handed over power to Bakili Muluzi in 1994 after dismally losing the hotly contested elections.

2019 elections will be a litmus test for democracy in Malawi as the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has released the highest number of parliamentary candidates ever to contest in the elections.

No fewer than 1331 candidates will battle it out in the polls for the 193 parliamentary seats. Of the 1331 candidates, MEC registered 501 independent candidates—84 more than in the previous elections.

Main Presidential candidates

Incumbent Mutharika, 78, he faces three challengers, including his own Vice President Chilima. Chilima, 48, quit Mutharika´s party to form the United Transformation Movement, while staying on as vice president. 

Lazarus Chakwera (64) of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who is also the leader of the opposition in parliament has revived his party with hopes of unseating Mutharika.

Riding on omissions and commissions of the current government, Chakwera is emerging to be a favourite to the electorate as his MCP has managed to cut across the religious divide in Malawi by appealing to both Muslims and Christians in the forthcoming polls.

Atupele Muluzi (41), the current health minister in Mutharika’s government remains in the doldrums as he seeks to revive the United Democratice Front (UDF).

The other two contenders are Lazarus Chakwera, head of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP); and Atupele Muluzi, health minister in Mutharika´s government.

Electoral system

The President of Malawi is elected using the first-past-the-post system; the candidate that receives the most votes is the winner of the election.The 193 members of the National Assembly are also elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies. 

The transition to multiparty democracy has been encouraging with the number of large political parties steadily growing and power peacefully changing hands between the four presidents, the country has known since 1994. In this context, the race to the 2019 elections is particularly competitive. The most recent polls place voter intention for the incumbent Mutharika at a near tie with Chakwera.