23 March 2017

Swaziland: Swazi Election Campaigning Illegal

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in Swaziland has warned people it is illegal to campaign for the national election until they have been given permission.

That means until King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, sets the date for the poll. It will be sometime in 2018.

The warning came from EBC officer Siboniso Nhleko at a voters' education workshop at Khuphuka.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati's subjects are only allowed to pick 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly; the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

The King choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini.

He also choses senior civil servants and top judges.

International observers regularly declare elections in Swaziland to be not free and fair.

After Swaziland's previous election in 2013, the Commonwealth Observer Mission called for a review of the kingdom's constitution. It said members of parliament 'continue to have severely limited powers'.

The Commonwealth observers said there was 'considerable room for improving the democratic system'.

They called for King Mswati's powers to be reduced. 'The presence of the monarch in everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of monarchy with politics, a situation that runs counter to the development that the re-establishment of the Parliament and the devolution of executive authority into the hands of elected officials.'

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported on Tuesday (21 March 2017) Nhleko stated that campaigning at this point in time was illegal.

The newspaper reported, 'In fact, Nhleko said there was a specific period where elections candidates are allowed to lobby for votes from the public. This is usually after the nomination stage. Nhleko said anyone who would be found campaigning before this stage would, therefore, be hauled before court and face a criminal offence.'

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