Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. There is a cabinet of Malawi that is appointed by the President of Malawi. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The government of Malawi has been a multi-party democracy since 1994.
Under the 1997 constitution, the president, who is both chief of state and head of the government, is chosen through universal direct suffrage every 5 years. Malawi has a vice president who is elected with the president. The president has the option of appointing a second vice president, who must be from a different party. It also includes a presidentially appointed cabinet.
The members of the cabinet of Malawi can be drawn from either within or outside of the legislature. Bakili Muluzi was president from 21 May 1994 to May 2004, having won reelection in 2000 with 51.4% of the vote to leading challenger Gwandaguluwe Chakuamba's 44.3% for the MCP-AFORD party. In the 2004 election Bingu wa Mutharika defeated Chakuamba by a ten-point margin.
The President of Malawi and the current executive branch is supported by appointed members of a Cabinet of Malawi and government agencies in Malawi.
The National Assembly has 193 members, elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies. The constitution also provides for a second house, a Senate of 80 seats, but to date no action has been taken to create the Senate. The Senate is intended to provide representation for traditional leaders and the different geographical districts, as well as various special interest groups, such as women, youth, and the disabled.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Malawi's judicial system, based on the English model, is made up of magisterial lower courts, a High Court, and a Supreme Court of Appeal.