n Malawi Law Journal - Law, power and the limits of liberal democratic constitutionalism in Malawi

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1996-7675


Most of the debates on the 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Malawi attribute the failure of democracy and development in the country to shortcomings in its interpretation, application and enforcement, and not to the Constitution's own fundamental premises. This approach tends to privilege the formalities of the validity of legal norms over the political and moral legitimacy of those norms or their relationship to the social, economic or political context in which they operate. While useful to some extent, this approach may obscure the fundamental structural and ideological factors that constrain the Constitution from delivering on its promises on democracy and development. In practice, the interpretation, application and enforcement of constitutional norms are conditioned by the dynamics of substantive power relations that form its context. Malawi is far from attaining full democratisation partly because the Constitution has not yet significantly altered the structural imbalances in the power relationships and dynamics that make up the country's political, economic and social settings.

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