21 June 2013

Swaziland: Voters 'Reject' Election Registration

Photo: Darron Raw
His Majesty, King Mswati III.

analysis

Swaziland's Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) chair Chief Gija Dlamini is making excuses for the low turnout for registration for this year's discredited national election.

He told media in Swaziland that it would 'take a miracle' to register the 600,000 people eligible to vote. He said more than 300,000 had signed up with registration closing on 23 June.

He said one problem was that some eligible Swazi people lived outside the kingdom.

At the start of the campaign to sign up voters, the EBC said it wanted to reach 600,000 people, but it has struggled to generate interest. At the last election in 2008, the EBC signed up 88 percent of the eligible 400,000 population. If it signed up a similar proportion this year, it should have 528,000 people on its electoral roll.

The Times of Swaziland reported him saying the low take-up to register was not a problem. 'But what is very important is that Swazis are free to register without inhibitions. Unlike in some countries, there is no penalty imposed on anyone who will choose not to vote. Swaziland is a democratic country after all.'

However, Chief Gija was not being honest here. Last week, media reported Chief Maloyi of Ensingweni had told his subjects registration to vote in the elections was compulsory.

He said those who would not participate in the upcoming national elections would be in defiance with King Mswati III's orders. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

He said participating in the upcoming national elections was compulsory for his subjects because it was the King's order that the kingdom should go to elections this year. He said he had heard that some people thought that registering and participating in the elections was by choice, the Times reported him saying.

'I have been told that some of you thought that participating in the upcoming national elections is for those who like it. That is not true; it is for every Swazi citizen. The only people who have a choice of participating are foreigners, not you,' he reportedly told his subjects at a community meeting.

Meanwhile, King Mswati said he was 'impressed to learn that a number of Swazis stood up to go to the registration centres, the turnout is encouraging indeed. We are happy to see that Swazis, when time for registration arrived, showed initiative and supported the system.'

However, the figures suggest the king might be wrong. A boycott campaign has been gaining ground in Swaziland and this might have directly resulted in the low turnout.

The election due in September is widely recognised as bogus. All political parties are banned from taking part and the parliament that is selected is seen as a rubber stamp for the king.

The election is for 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The king appoints the other 10 members. No members of the 30-strong Swazi Senate are elected by the people: 20 senators are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

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