Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Fears Grow of Vote-Rigging and Malpractice in Swaziland Election

Fears of vote rigging during the first round of the Swaziland election are growing. The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) received complaints about malpractice from across the kingdom.

Most presiding officers at polling stations did not know how to seal ballot boxes properly, a group of official election observers reported.

At Kwaluseni about 16 candidates and their agents walked out of the counting in protest at cheating and called for the election in the constituency to be cancelled.

The Swazi Observer reported (29 August 2018) there were complaints that ballot papers were tightly interlocked and could not be easily removed from ballot boxes. Candidates questioned how a thick package of papers could have been in the box when it was half empty.

The Observer reported, ‘The package was two ballot papers interlocked at right angles with several other papers neatly tucked in them.’

Counting was stopped for several hours with three boxes out of seven uncounted. It was later completed despite protests.

There were also allegations at Kwaluseni that during the voting polling station officers had told people who to vote for.

Voters in Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini by the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III) went to the polls in the first round of national and community elections on Saturday (25 August 2018). Political parties are banned from taking part and the King appoints the Prime Minister and government ministers.

Candidates and voters from the Buka Chiefdom and Lobamba Lomdzala marched on the offices of the EBC calling for the votes in their areas to be recounted.

At Buka they said the number of votes cast did not tally with the number of registered voters and some rejected ballot papers were counted, according to the Swazi Observer. They also said some ballot boxes were late arriving at the count after voting ended at Buka.

Voters from Lobamba Lomdzala told the newspaper they suspected ‘foul play’ at the election. The EBC asked them to detail complaints in writing.

EBC Commissioner Ncumbi Maziya said many complaints had been received from across the kingdom. ‘We have received complaints from Ezulwini, Lobamba Lomdzala, Kwaluseni and some from Mpolonjeni in the Lubombo region,’ the Observer quoted Maziya saying.

The Observer added, ‘He said the commission would follow the proper channels in addressing the complaints by the electorate.

‘“I also advised them to go to the court if need be so that their concerns could be addressed expeditiously.”’

A report on the election process from the Eswatini Elections Support Network which is overseen by the Coordinating Assembly of NGOs (CANGO) which visited about 170 polling stations on the day said, ‘Most presiding officers struggled to seal ballot boxes and this is a serious concern that needs urgent attention. Poor seals allow for the ballot boxes to be manipulated and damage the credibility of the results. CANGO would like to encourage EBC to seriously invest in an urgent training for all presiding officers to be taught how to seal ballot boxes properly.’

Members of the Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU), the paramilitary police wing, were called to Nkhaba Old Inkhundla polling station and Matsanjeni South ‘to calm the situation where voters blocked the exit of electoral officials who were transporting ballot papers to a central command place where counting could take place’, CANGO reported.

See also

Independent Election Observers in Swaziland Barred From Some Polling Stations, Told to Sign Secrecy Forms

First Round of Swaziland Election Marred by Inefficiency and Fear of Vote-Rigging

Chaos and Violence Reported Across Swaziland as Voters go to the Polls

Organised Certainty, Why elections in Swaziland are not democratic

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