21 July 2017

Swaziland: Why Swaziland Election Is Bogus

As Swaziland gears up for the next national election due in 2018 the Elections and Boundaries Commission which is King Mswati III's propaganda machine is working at full throttle to mislead people inside and outside the kingdom that the vote will be credible.

Top of the propagandists' agenda is to try to fool people that the election is to choose a new government. It is not.

The elections have no real purpose other than to give King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, a fig leaf of democracy.

Here are 10 reasons why the election in Swaziland should not be considered credible.

Political parties are banned from taking part in the election so no debate is possible about alternative policies to those pursued by the outgoing government.

The election is only for 55 of the 65-member House of Assembly. The other ten members are appointed by King Mswati III. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected; 20 are appointed by the King and 10 are selected by the House of Assembly.

The people do not elect a government. The Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers are appointed by the King. The present PM Barnabas Dlamini has never been elected to political office.

The Swazi Parliament has no powers. King Mswati can, and does, overrule decisions he does not like. This was the case in October 2012 when the king refused to accept a vote of no confidence passed by the House of Assembly on his government, even though he was obliged by the constitution to do so.

Nominations for the primary elections at the last election in 2013 were marred by allegations of interference by local chiefs, who report directly to the King and vet candidates who are nominated. Some candidates said they were not nominated as they failed to catch their chief's eye. Some women were barred by chiefs from taking part in the 2013 nomination process because they were wearing trousers.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) summed up the political system in Swaziland in a 2012 'situation report', 'Tinkhundla elections can essentially be defined as "organised certainty", since they reproduce the prevailing political status quo in Swaziland. The ruling regime enjoys an unchallenged monopoly over state resources, and elections have increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy.'

Candidates in the primary election are barred by law from campaigning, so voters have no way of questioning and challenging candidates about what they would do if elected.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) received many complaints following the 2013 primary election. These include the buying of votes; polling stations either open for too many hours (or not enough) and people being turned away from polling stations.

The 2013 elections were criticised by most international observers. They failed to meet most of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) principles for conducting democratic elections. The African Union's (AU) Election Observation Mission said that Swaziland should change its constitution so that it conforms with international principles for free and fair elections.

In 2013, the Commonwealth Observer Mission noted the presence of police at polling stations, compromised privacy in polling booths and identifying factors on ballot papers that prevented anonymity. The Mission recommended that the constitution should be revisited, ideally "through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society to harmonise provisions which are in conflict ... to ensure that Swaziland's commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal'".


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