The head of Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission has said members of political parties are welcome to contest the 2018 national election, but poliical parties remain banned.
The Swazi Observer newspaper reported he ‘emphasised that political parties will not be allowed to contest as organisations, but their members are free to contest as individuals in their respective constituencies’.
Swaziland’s previous election in 2013 was considered ‘not free and fair’ by a number of international organisations, including the Commonwealth Observer Mission which called for a review of the kingdom’s constitution. It said members of parliament ‘continue to have severely limited powers’ and political parties are banned.
The Swazi people have no say in who their leaders are. They are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.
The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini. Chief Gija, is a half-brother of the King.
In an interview with the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Chief Gija said, ‘It must be clear that for now, no organisation is allowed to contest for the elections, but their members are free to do so.’
Political parties are banned under the Swaziland Constitution from contesting elections and groups that advocate for democratic reforms in the kingdom are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
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