Malawi was officially a one-party state from October 1973 until July 1993. The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was the national party and Hastings Kamuzu Banda was its president for life. All candidates for the National Assembly had to be members of the MCP.
For years the opposition groups in exile achieved little success in their efforts to unseat the Banda government. The Socialist League of Malawi (LESOMA), with headquarters in Harare, was directed by Attati Mpakati until his assassination in March 1983. A second group, the Malawi Freedom Movement (MAFREMO), based in Tanzania, was led by Orton Chirwa, who was seized by Malawi authorities in late 1981 and imprisoned for life until his death in 1992. The Congress for the Second Republic, also based in Tanzania, was led by former External Affairs Minister Kanyama Chiume. The Save Malawi Committee (SAMACO) was formed in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1983.
In September 1992, trade unionist Chakufwa Chihana formed the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) before being convicted of sedition. AFORD and others pushed successfully for a referendum on adopting a multi-party system, and the United Democratic Front (UDF) combined with a coalition in exile (the United Front for Multiparty Democracy) late in 1992.
Since the introduction of multiparty competition in May 1994, the UDF and its leader, Bakili Muluzi, have dominated the political arena. In the 1994 presidential contest, Muluzi garnered 47.3% of the vote, and his party 84 of the 177 elective seats in the National Assembly. Muluzi obtained 51.4% of the vote in the 1999 presidential poll, and the UDF won 94 of 193 Assembly seats. A shake-up in UDF hierarchy in 2003 revealed vulnerabilities in the party's leadership and organization.