King Mswati III of Swaziland has told his subjects they should only vote for Christians in this year’s national election.
His call goes against the spirit of the Swazi Constitution which protects freedom of religion.
King Mswati who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch preached a sermon to Christians at the Somhlolo National Stadium on Sunday (1 April 2018) and said people should ask for God’s guidance when heading for the polls.
Political parties are barred from taking part in elections and groups that advocate for multiparty democracy in the kingdom have been banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King choses the Prime Minister and government.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Tuesday (3 April 2018), ‘His Majesty has on many occasions warned people to be wary of those campaigning for parliamentary seats and urged the electorate to make sober decisions when they get to the polls for the betterment of the country.’
The newspaper reported the King saying, ‘This year the nation will be heading to the polls and one prays and hopes that people will apply their minds when voting. A clear mind is found in God, if you seek God’s guidance, he will help you elect the right people. If you apply your mind, then you will elect people that are of Godly character and will be able to serve the electorate, the country and God.’
The newspaper added, ‘His Majesty said. He said individuals who served God were trustworthy people who were capable of serving the nation diligently.’
S23 of the Swaziland Constitution that was adopted in 2006 says a person has a right to freedom of religion. In the drafting of the Constitution it was discussed that Swaziland should be designated a Christian country, but this was dropped in the final version.
Elections are held every five years in Swaziland and are declared not free and fair each time by international observers. People only get to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chooses the other 10. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King chooses 20 and the other 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.
Freedom of assembly is severely curtailed in Swaziland, especially in the run-up to elections. The Swazi Parliament has no real powers as the King can and does overrule decisions if he wishes.
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