Friday, November 16, 2018

Legitimacy and credibility of Swaziland election hampered by political parties ban, UN group reports

The ‘legitimacy and credibility’ of the recent national election in Swaziland / Eswatini was ‘significantly hampered’ because political parties are banned in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, according to a United Nations group.

The King has ‘excessive powers’ in the appointment of the Government, Parliament and the judiciary, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) said in a report just published.

It follows a visit to Swaziland on 6 to 8 November 2018 to review a number of human rights issues outlined in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The HRC reported, ‘According to the Constitution of Eswatini (Swaziland), the system of Government is based on the Tinkhundla, in which individual merit is a basis for election and appointment into public office. In practice, this translates in a system where the King has excessive powers appointment over the Government, Parliament and the judiciary, incompatible with article 25 of the ICCPR.’

Elections for the House of Assembly took place on 21 September 2018. Political parties were banned from taking part. The people were only allowed to elect 59 members of the House, a further 10 were appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate were elected by the people; 10 were elected by the House of assembly and 20 appointed by the King. 

Following the election the King appointed a Prime Minister and Cabinet in contravention of the Swaziland Constitution. He also appointed six members of his Royal Family to the House of Assembly and eight to the Senate.

In its report the Human Rights Committee said, ‘The legitimacy and credibility of the elections was significantly hampered by the design of the electoral mechanisms as a culture of political pluralism is lacking. There is no freedom of genuine and pluralistic political debate, political parties are unable to register, contest elections, field candidates or otherwise participate in the formation of a Government. 

‘Political organisations have tried to challenge the Government to allow at least individual candidates to express their affiliation to political parties during the election campaigning period in order to promote steps towards political plurality. On 20 July 2018, the High Court of Eswatini dismissed an application brought by SWADEPA for an interim order allowing individual candidates to express their affiliation to political parties during the election campaign period.’

Swaziland ratified the ICCPR in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but by 2017 it had failed to report. After such a long delay the HRC reviewed of the kingdom in the absence of report. The November visit was an attempt to review progress since then.

See also

Swaziland quizzed on terror law

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