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The vertical and horizontal accountability in the Malawi parliamentary democracy

Kameme, Webster Siame


Webster Siame Kameme


Philip Norton

Cristina Coutinho Leston-Bandeira


…the future is that; I think we have hit rock bottom and that the only way we can go now is not down but up. I have hope. I have told Malawians that we need to look into the future with hope and I know that we shall be fine. What I am implying here is that ultimately what is going to save democracy in Malawi is the willingness by Malawians to protect themselves and preserve the freedoms and rights which they have…, (President, Joyce Banda, 2011).

The thesis of this study is that the Malawi Parliament ought to be the hub of vertical and horizontal accountability in legislation, representation and oversight roles. Salih, (2005, p.3) states that parliaments are caught between fulfilling the governance role and acting as part of government. Therefore, in order to effectively fulfil this objective, parliament must be supported, (Ma Ngok, in Siu-Kai, 2002). However, the study notes that the Malawi Parliament has a high executive influence; no policy making power with minimal legislative viscosity, (Norton, 2005, 1990; Polsby, 1975; Mezey, 1979 and Blondel, 1973). Consequently, it is argued with empirical data that since the 1994 multiparty election, parliament has not been effective in its vertical and horizontal accountability roles, (Lindberg, 2009). In the horizontal accountability, parliament plays an inter-governmental role of the executive oversight as well as that of checks and balance, (Stapenhurst and O’Brien, 2011, p. 3). In the vertical, parliament is held accountable through its elected members by its voters, stakeholders and the civil society, (Chirwa and Nijzink, 2012, p.6). It is argued that when voters (principals) delegate their decision-making power to parliament (agent), the principal must have mechanisms in place of holding the agent(s) accountable for their actions or lack of it and if necessary, impose sanctions or remove the agent from power, (Strom, 1999, pp. 7, 8). In every developed democracy, government policies and services are demand driven; sanctioned, monitored and evaluated by the legislature (Lupia and McCubbins, 1999, p. 4). Using empirical data, the study observed that although the Malawi Parliament has made significant reforms towards regaining its independence and autonomy from the executive, it still continues to be seen as a legitimatisation and
sometimes rubberstamping institution, (Nyamongo, 2010; Chinsinga, 2007; Patel, 2007). The contributory factors were both intrinsic and extrinsic such as lack of institutional capacity as well as political will by the executive to support a greater parliamentary autonomy. Thus, the study recommends that the Malawi Parliament institutes a human resource development programme in order to improve the technical capacity of legislative support staff as well as MPs; increase funding and strengthen parliamentary committee system for higher scrutiny as well as a wider stakeholder consultation at every stage of the legislative process; The study also recommends that appointments of directors in auxiliary governance agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Electoral Commission of Malawi, and the Human Rights Commission shift from the presidency to parliament. It is the assumption of this study that increasing parliamentary oversight potential promotes democracy and good governance, (Pelizzo and Stapenhurst, 2007, p.13).


Kameme, W. S. (2015). The vertical and horizontal accountability in the Malawi parliamentary democracy. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 29, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Politics
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Politics, Philosophy and International Studies, The University of Hull
Award Date Jun 1, 2015


Thesis (3.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Kameme, Webster Siame. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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