The European Union has told King Mswati III of Swaziland he must allow political parties to operate in his kingdom.
It said it was important that international principles of democracy were upheld in Swaziland, where the king rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The call came at the end of a two-day visit to Swaziland by an EU delegation. During the visit the EU met with the king, Barnabas Dlamini, the man the king appointed as his Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and representatives of civil society groups.
At the end of the visit, Koen Vervaeke, EU Director for Southern and Eastern Africa at the European External Action Service (EEAS), told a press conference it was important that Swaziland adhered to internationally-recognised principles on democracy.
At present political parties are banned in Swaziland and are not allowed to contest elections.
Vervaeke said, ‘Freedom of association is provided for in Section 25 of the Swaziland Constitution’.
Local media reported Vervaeke saying, ‘I have called on the country’s authorities to make this a reality for all civil society organisations, including political parties.’
Swaziland is to hold its national election later this year, at a date to be set by the king. Last time elections were held in 2008, the EU declined an invitation to send a delegation to monitor the election, declaring that it could not be free and fair if political parties were banned.
In 2008 Peter Beck Christiansen, the EU Ambassador to Swaziland, told a press conference there were, ‘shortcomings in the kingdom’s democracy’. He also said, ‘It is noted that the Prime Minister is not elected by Parliament.’
The Swazi election is internationally recognised as not meaningful. There are two chambers of 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.