Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chair Chief Gija Dlamini is backtracking over the number of people expected to be registered for this September’s national poll.
It comes as the EBC has struggled to meet targets for voter registration. The EBC had said there were 600,000 people in Swaziland eligible to vote and allowed the media to report this as the body’s target for registration.

But, with only 20 days of registration to go only 190,000 people have signed up to vote.

At this rate of registration only about 363,000 people will have signed up by the end of the registration period on 23 June 2013.

But, now Chief Gina is claiming the 600,000 figure was never a target. The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, reported, ‘The chairman [Chief Gija] also clarified that the 600 000 people expected to register were not in actual fact the commission’s target.’ 

The newspaper added, ‘However, he explained that this was the number of people eligible to vote in the country. Such people are those who are 18 years and above.’

If 363,000 people register to vote, it will represent only 60 percent of the total number of people eligible to vote.

At the last election in 2008, King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, claimed a triumph when 350,778 people registered to vote. In 2008, the EBC claimed the total number of people eligible to vote was 400,000 (200,000 fewer than the figure claimed for this year). 

Those 350,778 represented 88 percent of the total number eligible to vote. 

To at least match the 88 percent take-up figure for 2008, this year the ECB must sign up at least 528,000 people.

The Swazi Observer gave no reason why Chief Gija and the ECB had moved the goal-posts and revised down its figure for participation at this year’s election.

A campaign by prodemocracy groups to get people to boycott this year’s election is in full swing. They say the elections are meaningless because political parties are not allowed to take part and the parliament that is selected has no real powers.

The election is for 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The king appoints the other 10 members. No members of the 30-strong Swazi Senate are elected by the people: 20 senators are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

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