APPP Background Paper 4. Malawi's political settlement in crisis, 2011


This paper explains the origins of Malawi’s mid-2011 political-economic crisis and subsequent events. While it traces some themes back to before the democratic transition of 1994, it highlights the actions that led up to the July 20-21 mass demonstrations which resulted in the death of 20 people; that contributed to the current national economic downturn; and that have fuelled on-going civil rights abuses, keeping national politics on the boil. It also looks towards to the 2014 elections.

It focuses on President Bingu wa Mutharika’s leadership style, recent economic developments and their socio-political impact, the various political settlements fashioned by the elite, some long-term political economy trends, and several economic and political constraints affecting stability. The ‘20 demands’ presented by civil society activists to President Mutharika in mid-July are explained, and the subsequent responses of government, outsiders and civil society are laid out. The paper concludes with a discussion of the political logics which undermine the possibility of ‘developmental patrimonialism’ in Malawi and portend unfair and violent elections in 2014. If the deteriorating situation is not turned around it may lead to Malawi becoming a failed state.


Cammack, D. APPP Background Paper 4. Malawi’s political settlement in crisis, 2011. Overseas Development Institute, London, UK (2011) 22 pp.

APPP Background Paper 4. Malawi’s political settlement in crisis, 2011

Published 1 January 2011