Swaziland is eager to expand its ties with Iran, the Iranian news agency FNA reported this week.
What it did not report was that Iran is about to have an election. This is what Human Rights Watch says about the Iranian election.
‘Serious electoral flaws and human rights abuses by the Iranian government undermine any meaningful prospect of free and fair elections on June 14, 2013. Dozens of political activists and journalists detained during the violent government crackdown that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election remain in prison, two former presidential candidates are under house arrest, and authorities are already clamping down on access to the internet, having arbitrarily disqualified most registered presidential and local election candidates.’
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, ‘Fair elections require a level playing field in which candidates can freely run and voters can make informed decisions.’
‘How can Iran hold free elections when opposition leaders are behind bars and people can’t speak freely?’
Swaziland wants to do business with the Iranian regime. The news agency FNA reported, “‘We want strong ties between the two countries and while we are completely satisfied with the current relations with Iran, we are also after expanding these relations,’ the Swazi justice minister [Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze] said in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Morteza Bakhtiari in Tehran on Tuesday.’
Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is holding its own election later this year. Political parties are banned from taking part and members of parliament have been silenced from appearing on state controlled broadcast media in the kingdom.
Swaziland’s economy is in free-fall and it is finding it almost impossible to attract foreign investment into the kingdom.
According to the FNA report the Swazi Justice Minister, ‘called on Iran to provide the ground for a visit by the Swazi businessmen to Iran, and said, “No doubt, more job opportunities will be created in our country after such visits.”’
Swaziland has a murky relationship with the dictators in Iran. In February 2011, the Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that Britain had blocked a $60m sale of helicopters, armoured cars and machine guns to Swaziland, fearing the weapons could end up in Iran. The report was based on cables between US diplomats that had been published by Wikileaks.
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