Eswatini: To Contest or Boycott? Eswatini Election Divides Pro-Democracy Activists

eSwatini protest (file photo).

Political activists in Eswatini are deeply divided over whether to contest or boycott parliamentary elections in late September under an electoral system that bars political parties.

The tiny landlocked kingdom, which shares borders with South Africa and Mozambique, goes to the polls on 29 September to elect members of parliament two years after violent pro-democracy protests left dozens dead.

Since 1993, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) has held parliamentary elections every five years, but there is no legislative framework enabling the participation of political parties. Instead, aspiring parliamentarians can stand only as independents.

The nomination process takes place in Royal Kraals under the watchful eye of traditional authorities (chiefs), who can influence voters not to nominate candidates perceived to be disloyal to the chief and those seen as anti-monarchy.

Elected legislators enjoy parliamentary privilege - they can pass or block bills and they can also pass a vote of no confidence in the cabinet. But they have no constitutional powers to hold the monarch to account or to debate the royal budget.

The Eswatini legislature comprises two houses: the lower house of Assembly and the upper house of Senate. The electorate can elect only 59 of the 69 members of the lower house. The remaining 10 members are appointed by King Mswati.

The people do not elect any members of the upper house of the Senate.


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