Saturday, September 21, 2013


One of King Mswati III’s newspapers has claimed a 97 percent voter turnout in the Swaziland election held on Friday (20 September 2013).

The Weekend Observer, one of a group of newspapers in effect owned by the king, reported, ‘about 400,000 voters braved the scorching sun and went straight to the voting centres to cast their ballots as early as possible’.

But, official figures from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) state that only 411,084 Swazis living in Swaziland had registered to vote.

If the Weekend Observer report was correct, 97.3 percent of registered voters would have gone to the polling stations.

The Weekend Observer which is widely regarded, even within Swaziland, as a propaganda sheet for the monarchy, has been talking up the success of the polling.

It wrote, ‘The nation witnessed remarkable improvement in the national secondary elections on Friday and all credit can be given to the Elections and Boundaries Commission.’

The EBC, whose members were appointed by the king and is headed by one of his half-brothers, came under intense criticism for the shambles surrounding the nomination process and the primary elections held in August.

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is keen to demonstrate the validity of the elections. Opposition groups called for a voter boycott because political parties were banned from taking part in the election and the parliament that is elected acts as a rubber stamp for the king.

King Mswati will choose the Prime Minister and his government and is not obliged to choose people elected to parliament.

It is important for King Mswati that there is a high voter turnout. At the last election in 2008 only 47.4 percent of the estimated 400,000 Swazi people eligible to vote did so. The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) in its report on the election attributed the low turnout in 2008 to a campaign for a boycott of the election by progressives in Swaziland.

It reported on the 2008 election, ‘The best indication we have of whether the boycott was a success or not is the voter turnout rate.’

It added, ‘In many ways the call by the trade unions, most of the political parties and many civil society organisations for a boycott of the election transformed the election into a referendum on the legitimacy of the new Constitution and the political order that it enshrines.’

EISA said, ‘From this we may conclude that large numbers of Swazis heeded the boycott call and thereby signalled their disenchantment with the current Constitutional dispensation.’

A low turnout in the 2013 election would confirm that.

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