King Mswati III of Swaziland has ordered election registration in the kingdom to be extended by a week as the number of people signing up has failed to reach targets.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission (ECB) announced that with two days of registration still to go only 344,679 of an estimated 600,000 potential voters had signed up. This represents only 57.45 percent of the eligible population. At the last election in 2008, 88 percent of eligible voters registered to vote.
The ECB has been trying to talk up the figures saying there had been a rush to register over the final two days of registration which ended on Sunday (23 June 2013).
ECB Chair Chief Gija Dlamini also told media in Swaziland that the figures were inaccurate because some people who registered have yet to appear on the ECB computer. He also said some Swazi people who wanted to register were presently outside the kingdom.
Chief Gija has once again denied that the ECB had targeted to register 600,000 people. He told the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, 'It would have been a miracle to have 600,000 of the populace within the given times but it is only fair for EBC to use it as a measure to attempt to register a high number. However we are pleased with the current figures of the people who have registered and we are hopeful that before the deadline we would have reached 400,000.'
He added there were no threats to the elections even if the 600,000 was not reached. 'There is nothing wrong even if the figures do not reach half of the estimated population,' he said.
Chief Gija told a press conference that the deadline for registration had been extended to 30 June 2013 in order to avoid possible stampedes and overcrowding at the registration centre.
He told the media, 'We have been sent by the King to announce the extension of the registration process.'
The ECB has yet to address the real reasons for the low turnout. King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, and those who support him, believe the Swazi people support his undemocratic political system, known as tinkhundla, but the evidence of the voting suggests this might not be the case.
The election due in September has always been recognised as bogus by the international community. Now, more than ever, people within the kingdom might be coming to the same conclusion. All political parties are banned from taking part in the election due in September 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.
A campaign organised by prodemocracy groups to boycott the election has been gathering momentum over the past few months.