10 March 2013

Swaziland: Election - Warning Not to Use Facebook

People in Swaziland have been warned they cannot use Facebook to campaign in the forthcoming national election, until King Mswati III gives them permission.

Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission Chief Gija said it was illegal to use Facebook to campaign until the date of the election due later in 2013 was called. Only King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, has the power to call the election.

Until then all campaigning is illegal.

The election in Swaziland is undemocratic.

Political parties are not allowed to take part and the parliament that is formed after the vote has no powers.

There are two chambers of parliament, the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people. In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people.

King Mswati is in complete control of his kingdom. In October 2012, the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister and cabinet.

In such circumstances the constitution requires the monarch to sack the government (he has no discretion in the matter), but King Mswati ignored this and put pressure on the House to re-run the vote, this time ensuring that it did not have the required majority to pass. Members of the House did as they were told and the government continued in office.

Chief Gija made his statement during an interview with the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati.

He said concerns had been raised that some people were using Facebook to campaign even though it was illegal. He said by using Facebook it was possible for anyone to call the masses to a meeting for the sole purpose of soliciting for votes.

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