Malawi is a presidential republic, and since 1994 it has been a multi-party democracy. The president is both head of state and government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly.

Under the 1995 constitution the president is chosen through universal direct suffrage every five years for a maximum of two terms. The vice-president is elected with the president. The president can elect a second vice president who must be from a different party. The cabinet, appointed by the president, can be drawn from within or outside the legislature.

The national assembly has 193 members elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies. Although the constitution of 1995 provided for a senate of 80 seats, a constitutional amendment approved by the National Assembly in 2001 removed the provision for a senate. Thus, the legislature in Malawi remains unicameral.

Local government is carried out in 28 districts within three regions with administrators and district commissioners who are appointed by the central government.

The 1994 constitution contains a bill of human rights (although it retains the death penalty) and protects the independence of the judiciary from the executive and the legislature. The High Court sits in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba, and magistrates’ courts are located in cities and towns in 24 districts throughout the country. Appeals from the magistrates’ courts are heard by the High Court and those arising from the High Court by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Blantyre.