18 September 2018

Swaziland: Election Observer Group From African Union to Examine Level of Political Rights in Swaziland

Photo: Swazi Media Commentary
Protesters burn tyres in the commercial city of Manzini during pre-election demonstrations against poor pay and working conditions.

The African Union (AU) says it will investigate the level of political rights people have in Swaziland as part of its mission to observe the kingdom's national election.

At total of 30 observers will be across Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini by absolute monarch King Mswati III) for the poll on Friday (21 September 2018).

In a statement ahead of the visit the AU said, 'The overall objective of AU election observation missions is to promote democracy, strengthen democratic institutions and build public confidence in electoral processes in Africa.'

In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in the election. People are only allowed to elect 59 members of the House of Assembly; another 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people.

King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and Cabinet members. He also chooses top civil servants and judges.

The AU said as part of its assessment criteria it would look at the existence 'of a level playing field, which determines the conditions for electoral competition' and 'the extent to which the constitution and legal framework guarantee fundamental freedoms and the exercise of political rights.'

After the last election in Swaziland in 2013 the AU called on the kingdom to review the constitution to ensure 'the fundamental freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process' were in place.

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