The main opposition group in Swaziland, the banned People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), has called for international election observers to boycott this year’s national poll because political parties are outlawed.
Mario Masuku, President of PUDEMO, said, ‘We are calling on countries not to respect the outcome of these elections and we want the international poll observers to boycott the election because no election shall be free in the absence of political parties.’
Masuku told the Voice of America the election was a charade and a mockery of democracy and an affront to Swazis. He said the balloting does not allow Swazis to freely choose their representatives.
He said members of PUDEMO were unlikely to participate in the vote. ‘We are on a campaign right now to boycott the national election, to call for a true dialogue towards a national constitution that is truly democratic,’ Masuku said.
Elections are held every five years in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. King Mswati has yet to tell his subjects the date of this year’s election.
Following the last election in 2008, the Commonwealth election monitoring team declared that the voting was flawed and urged Swaziland to rewrite its constitution, if the kingdom wanted to ‘ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’.
The Commonwealth poll group issued a report saying ‘it is widely accepted internationally that democracy includes the right of individuals to associate with and support the political party of their choice… Yet in practice this right currently does not exist [in Swaziland]‘.
In January 2012, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the Swaziland Government, confirmed that there would be no changes from previous years to the way the national elections would be run and political parties would remain banned.
King Mswati’s supporters dismiss criticisms that the kingdom is un-democratic, saying Swaziland has a ‘unique’ democracy. This is built on a system of 55 Tinkhundla (local councils) and all candidates for election are required to stand as individuals and if elected personally represent the ordinary people in their local constituencies.
There are two chambers in the Swazi parliament: the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people.
In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people.