The United States Ambassador to Swaziland Lisa Peterson has spoken out in support of banned political parties in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as an absolute monarch.
Parties are not allowed to contest for elections and people and groups that advocate for democratic reform are prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
International organisations such as the European Union and Commonwealth routinely declare that Swaziland's elections are not free and fair because parties are banned from taking part. After the last election in 2013, the Commonwealth Observer Mission and African Union separately called for a review of the kingdom's constitution to un-ban parties.
The King chooses the Prime Minister and top government ministers.
Peterson spoke at a meeting of editors on Friday (23 February 2018). She said polling suggested that people in Swaziland did not support political parties. She said, 'For me that speaks to people not seeing what a political party can do for them. You need to build understanding and policy of advocacy at the grass root level so that you can get a number of people thinking in a similar manner.'
She said political entities that supported parties in Swaziland needed to work on the ground to change people's minds about the value of political parties. 'Each party or grouping needs to go about it in the way that works best,' she said.
She added, 'That plays a part in getting every average Swazi to understand why a political parties might be useful.'
Three political parties have already announced their intention to seek a court ruling to un-ban parties ahead of the election due some time in late 2018. They are the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO); the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA) and the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC).