Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Swaziland’s elections board is sending out invitations to international bodies to come and observer the kingdom’s election due later this year. 

The kingdom has no option but to do this if it wants the international community to recognise the election as credible.

But, if the last election in 2008 is anything to go by, the kingdom will end up simply confirming what its autocratic ruler King Mswati III refuses to admit: Swaziland is not a democracy.

In 2008, the European Union did not even bother to attend the election, declaring in advance of the poll that there was no need to visit since the election clearly was not democratic. 

Other organisations did attend, but when they wrote their reports on the poll, they too, declared the election flawed.

The observing bodies are in agreement that elections in Swaziland are not democratic because political parties are not allowed to take part, and the people are not electing a government.

Many observing bodies also state that the parliament that is elected in this way has no power. This is because King Mswati rules as an absolute monarch. He selects the person to be prime minister – the present PM Barnabas Dlamini was not even elected to parliament. The king and his prime minister then select cabinet ministers.

Swaziland has two chambers of parliament: the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 55 are elected by the people and another 10 are appointed by the king. None of the 30 members of the Senate are elected by the people: 20 are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

Following the last election in 2008, the Commonwealth election monitoring team declared that the voting was flawed and urged Swaziland to rewrite its constitution, if the kingdom wanted to ‘ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’.  

The Commonwealth group issued a report saying, ‘it is widely accepted internationally that democracy includes the right of individuals to associate with and support the political party of their choice…  Yet in practice this right currently does not exist [in Swaziland]’.

In February 2013, the main opposition group in Swaziland, the banned People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), called for international election observers to boycott this year’s poll because political parties are outlawed. 

Mario Masuku, President of PUDEMO, told Voice of America radio the election was a charade and a mockery of democracy and an affront to Swazis. He said the balloting did not allow Swazis to freely choose their representatives.

After the 2008 poll, the Pan African Parliament observermission reported a number of flaws in the political process in Swaziland, including the ban on political parties and a lack of representation of women in parliament. 

As in 2008, a campaign to get people to boycott thisyear’s election is gaining momentum.

In 2008, of the 400,000 estimated eligible population registered for the elections, when it came time to vote fewer than half these people (47.4 per cent), actually did so.

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) in its observer mission report on the election concluded that large numbers of Swazis heeded the boycott call and ‘thereby signalled their disenchantment with the current Constitutional dispensation’.

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