20 February 2018

Swaziland: Court Fight to UN-Ban Parties

Political parties in Swaziland are to go to court to force King Mswati III's regime to allow them freedom of assembly and to take part in the national election due later in 2018.

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. At present political parties advocating democracy in the kingdom are banned as terrorists. The Swazi Constitution does not allow any political parties to contest elections.

The People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO); the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA) and the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) have joined forces to take the government to court.

A national election is due at a date to be set by the King but under the kingdom's constitution only individuals are allowed to be candidates.

Swaziland's previous election in 2013 was considered 'not free and fair' by a number of international organisations, including the Commonwealth Observer Mission and African Union which called separately for a review of the kingdom's constitution. It said members of parliament 'continue to have severely limited powers' and political parties were banned.

In 2008, the EU declined an invitation to observe the honesty of the Swaziland elections because of 'shortcomings' in the kingdom's democracy.

In 2013, the EU which is a major donor of aid to Swaziland told King Mswati he must allow political parties to operate in his kingdom as it was important that international principles of democracy were upheld in Swaziland.

In October 2012, the United Kingdom also called for political parties to be un-banned in Swaziland.

In 2015 an independent survey showed more than one in three Swazi people wanted political parties to be allowed in the kingdom. This was even though all debate on democratising the kingdom is ruthlessly crushed by King Mswati's state police and security forces. Meetings called to discuss democratic change are routinely disrupted by police and prodemocracy activists are jailed. No news media in Swaziland support political parties.

Afrobarometer reported that in Swaziland 36 percent of people questioned agreed with the statement, 'The Swazi Constitution should be amended to allow for the existence of political parties in our country.' A total of 58 percent agreed with the statement, 'The constitutional ban on political parties has served our country well and should therefore be maintained.' More than six people in ten people said they were not satisfied with the way democracy worked in the kingdom.

In a 2013 survey Afrobarometer reported two thirds of Swazi people wanted the kingdom to become a democracy and they wanted to choose their own leaders 'through honest and open elections'.

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