Voice of America (Washington, DC)

19 September 2013

Swaziland: Electoral Group Rejects 'Sham Vote' Criticism

Photo: Darron Raw
His Majesty, King Mswati III.

The spokesman for Swaziland's Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has rejected criticisms that the final round of elections scheduled for Friday is a sham.

The electoral group organized a nomination process on August 3-4, following the voter registration process. Then on August 24, the primary election took place in the kingdom.

Electoral Commission spokesman Sabelo Dlamini says enthusiasm showed by prospective voters ahead of the final balloting is a demonstration of their support in the organizational ability of the electoral body to administer a credible election.

"The truth of the matter is we are having a massive participation from the Swazi public. From the number of people who have registered for the election, it is the biggest number that has been recorded in Swaziland in terms of elections," said Dlamini. "During the primary election, we had cues from 5 am and some polling stations had to close at 12 midnight because there were lots of people that had flocked in to vote."

Dlamini's comments came after pro-democracy groups said the ban on the participation of political parties in the election undermines the integrity of the vote. They also called on international poll observers to be vigilant and to not quickly endorse the vote as free and fair.

Swaziland's constitution prohibits political parties from taking part or campaigning ahead of elections. Pro-democracy groups, including People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), say elections in Swaziland are a mockery of democracy. Dlamini disagreed.

"Political parties are not supposed to participate in an election as a political party because participation in a Swazi election is by individual merit," said Dlamini. "But, every Swazi is allowed to participate in the elections. Whether you belong to a party or not, you are allowed to participate to vote or be voted for in the elections. There are a number of members of political parties who were nominated and they are participating in the election."

The electoral group, unlike in many other countries, does not register political parties in Swaziland. Dlamini outlined the criteria that qualify a Swazi to contest in an election.

"You are nominated in your community as an individual to represent that community in parliament. So the electoral and boundaries commission only registers voters individually, not registering them in terms of affiliation to any political party or any other denomination, for that matter," said Dlamini.

Some critics have said the EBC only registered about 70 percent of eligible voters this year, compared to 88 percent of registered voters during the last election in 2008.

Dlamini disagreed, saying that more than 70 percent of Swazis who are eligible to stand for election or to vote in the election have registered to vote.

"That should tell you that Swazis are supporting this process," Dlamini said.

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