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National Assembly

A historical Archive of past election results for this chamber can be found on a separate page

Parliament name National Assembly
Structure of parliament Unicameral
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 20 May 2004
Purpose of elections Elections were held for all seats in the National Assembly on the normal expiry of the members' term of office.
Malawians went to the polls on 20 May 2004 to elect the President and the 193 members of Parliament. A total of five presidential and 1,254 parliamentary candidates contested the elections. Three hundred and fifty six of the parliamentary candidates ran as independents and the rest represented 15 different parties

About 5.7 million people were eligible to cast their ballots, and the voting was monitored by over 200 international observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth and the African Union.

Initially, the polls were scheduled for 18 May, but were delayed because the opposition Mgwirizano coalition had taken the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to Court for an extension of the date to allow for proper scrutiny of the voters' roll. The coalition only obtained two extra days, which, some analysts pointed out, merely added to the confusion. Voter registration figures of 6.6 million released earlier in the year by the MEC were widely condemned as unreliable, reflecting a failure to properly update the rolls. The number of legal voters was reduced to 5.7 million after a South African computer company was called before the election day to help clean up the registers.

Based on its original calculation of registered voters, over seven million ballot papers were printed by the MEC - another issue seized on by the opposition as having created an opportunity for electoral fraud. The high court had granted custody of the excess papers to the courts, rather than the MEC, but that decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

According to the Constitution, incumbent President, Bakili Muluzi, of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) was forbidden to run again because he had already served two five-year terms. In 2002 lawmakers had rejected a proposal to amend the Constitution to let him run for a third term. He appointed Mr. Bingu wa Mutharika as the UDF candidate. Mr. wa Mutharika was mainly challenged by Mr. Gwanda Chakuamba who headed the Mgwirizano (Unity) Coalition of seven new parties. Also in the race were Mr. John Tembo, who stood on the ticket of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the oldest political grouping which led Malawi to independence from Britain in 1964; Mr. Brown Mpinganjira, head of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and Mr. Justin Malewezi, former vice president in the Muluzi administration, the first ever independent presidential candidate.

Weighty issues were at stake in the elections not least the burden of poverty in a country where at the time of the elections some 85 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line; 65 per cent were illiterate and privatisation had led to job loses. Concerns over corruption, over-expenditure and poor economic management have caused donors to freeze millions in foreign aid, which accounted for close to 40 per cent of the national budget. The country's woes had been compounded by three successive years of drought and a devastating HIV epidemic that had infected some 14 per cent of the population.

Generally, polling was conducted in a peaceful atmosphere except for isolated cases. Nevertheless, the European Union criticised the conduct of the elections stating that electoral authorities had failed "to address complaints filed by political parties and candidates concerning the voters' roll, the abuse of state resources and biased (state) media coverage". The Commonwealth monitors also declared their concern over "serious inadequacies" in the electoral process. As for the monitors from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said they noted with concern the incidents involving the handing out of cash and material inducements during some campaigns and felt this could undermine the electoral process."

Polling was postponed in six of the 193 parliamentary districts due to errors with ballot papers.

Mr. Bingu wa Mutharika was declared the winner of the presidential elections as he obtained 35 per cent of the votes. Mr. John Tembo of the Malawi Congress Party came second with 27 per cent and Mr Chakuamba of the Mgwiriziano coalition third with 26 per cent.

In the parliamentary elections, Mr Mutharika's United Democratic Front won 49 seats while the MCP, the former ruling party, won 56 seats - more than any other party, but short of a majority. The Mgwirizano Coalition obtained 25 seats and independent candidates 39 seats.

After the results were declared, dozens of protesters gathered near the main electoral centre in the commercial capital Blantyre to accuse authorities of rigging the ballot. At least four people were killed in the protests.

The new President was sworn in on 24 May 2004, even though opposition parties had challenged the results in courts and the verdict had not been handed down.
Voter turnout
Round no 120 May 2004
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes
3'119'645 (54.32%)

Distribution of votes
Round no 1
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) 174
United Democratic Front (UDF) 164
Independents 372
Mgwirizano Coalition 295
Distribution of seats
Round no 1
Political Group Total
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) 56
United Democratic Front (UDF) 49
Independents 39
Mgwirizano Coalition 25
Others 24
Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
Distribution of seats according to profession
Source: National Assembly (01.01.2008)

Note on the 'Distribution of seats':
'Others' include the following parties.
- National Democratic Alliance (NDA): 8
- Alliance for Democracy (AFORD): 6
- Congress for National Unity (CONU): 1

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