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Friday, 30 August 2013


There were more election irregularities reported on Friday (30 August 2013) in the aftermath of Swaziland’s primary election with news that a ballot box had been tampered with and wrong results had been announced.

The tampering happened at Ebenezer where a box was reportedly found with its seal broken and some voting papers missing. Some candidates are calling for a re-run of the election.  Six ballot papers were said to be missing. The victorious candidate won by three votes.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) admitted it had released the wrong names of poll winners at LaMgabhi. The election organisers blamed a ‘typographical error’.

A similar error was discovered at Dlangeni.

These are just some of a vast number of irregularities and illegalities reported since the primary election last Saturday.

The EBC has confirmed the numerous complaints had been lodged with the commission.

In a statement, EBC chair Chief Gija Dlamini said it would have been a miracle if everything had gone smoothly saying such could only be achieved by Jesus.

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Media in Swaziland have demonstrated they will report anything King Mswati says, even when they know he is wrong.

The latest example of this happened on Friday (30 August 2013) when they reported the king’s views on the primary election that took place last Saturday.

This is what the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent newspaper, reported the king saying, ‘All the processes were free and fair.’ 

Yet, elsewhere in the same edition the paper reported a raft of irregularities and illegalities at the election.

This is Times’ managing editor Martin Dlamini, writing in his own newspaper on Friday, ‘A cursory glance at the list of complaints lodged with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) reads like a comedy script.’ He then listed examples of alleged vote buying, illegal electioneering and so on. 

All week both the Times, and even the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by the king, have ran reports from across the kingdom detailing complaints about the election. On Thursday the Times ran a story about votes being bought in the town of Pigg’s Peak. 

The EBC, the body that runs the election, has received severe criticism all week from both of Swaziland’s daily newspapers.

The Times also reported on Friday, ‘His Majesty King Mswati III has expressed pleasure at the massive turnout during the first two phases of the elections [the nominations and the primaries].’

Actually, the king did not seem to say that: this was the invention of the reporter. What the king actually said (as reported in direct quotes by the same reporter) was, ‘I must say that I have been very pleased with the turnout even from the first round of the elections starting from the registration where people turned out in numbers, thereafter during the first round of the elections which has just been completed, which was also very successful and peaceful.’

The king being ‘very pleased’ with the turnout does not equate with expressing pleasure at a ‘massive turnout’.

In fact, all week the media have been writing about the ‘successful’ turnout at the primaries, but not one of them has reported the actual figures. About 415,000 people registered to vote: can we be sure that no more than a fraction of that number actually went to the primary poll?

King Mswati, rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. When he says something is so, the media report it without question and often follow it up in later editions with comment articles praising the king’s wisdom.

Sometimes as in the case of the Times’ report, the journalists get a bit carried away in their efforts to please the king.

Observers of the political scene in Swaziland would be well advised to ignore anything the media says about the king.

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Kenworthy News Media, August 30, 2013.
Court case against Swazi activists is a farce

The court case of two political activists in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland is getting increasingly farcical. Secretary General of youth league SWAYOCO, Maxwell Dlamini, and political activist Musa Ngubeni were arrested in 2011 on charges of contravening Swaziland’s Explosives Act, writes Kenworthy News Media.

One example of the farcical nature of the case is the alleged “evidence” of the explosives. First, one of the prosecution witnesses, whose testimony had contradicted that of two other witnesses, claimed that the explosives were too dangerous to bring to court. Then suddenly the explosives had apparently exploded after a South African bomb expert had allegedly tried to assemble it.

The defense attorney then requested to have the remnants of the alleged explosives presented in court, which the prosecution has failed to do. Instead, the prosecution wished to use undated photographs apparently taken by the South African bomb expert of what they claimed was the remnants of the explosives as evidence, which the court refused.

Generally, the court has failed to produce any evidence against Maxwell and Musa.

Both Maxwell and Musa claim that they have been tortured during their detainment in 2011, and the stiff bail of 50,000 Rand (the highest ever in Swazi legal history), the arduous bail conditions, and a seemingly endless court case is a commonly used way of trying to scare off other potential activists, according to the members of Swaziland’s democratic movement that I have spoken to.

The case will continue on October 3.

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Thursday, 29 August 2013


Kenworthy News Media, August 29, 2013
Swazi ‘selections’ begin

Swaziland’s elections have started, elections that many people in the small absolute monarchy jokingly refer to as “selections”, not elections, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The reason for this is obvious, if you bother to scratch a little below the surface of Swaziland’s so-called traditional democracy, also known as Tinkundla.

Firstly, absolute monarch King Mswati III is basically above the law as he can veto any law he doesn’t like.  As the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, who monitored the last elections in 2008, stated “executive authority is vested in the hands of a hereditary monarch.”

Secondly, the parliament is more or less chosen by the king, who appoints the entire government, appoints several of the MP’s personally and has to approve the rest.

And finally, no parties are allowed to partake in the elections – only individuals can run for office.

Elections have therefore “increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy,” as the African policy research institute, Institute for Security Studies, put it.

During the first round of elections, held Saturday [24 August 2013], candidates were by law not even allowed to campaign or discuss issues with their constituents. This has to wait until the second round, to be held on September 20. “This means that Swazi people are being asked to elect people at the primary without knowing what they stand for and what they will do if eventually elected to parliament,” as long-time Swaziland commentator, and former Associate Professor at the University of Swaziland, Richard Rooney, put it.

The fact that Swaziland is thus not by any definition of the word a democracy is also confirmed by all who bother to look into Swaziland’s elections. As the Pan African Parliament’s observer mission at the last election reported, the elections do “not meet regional and international standards and principles for democratic elections”.

This is why the largest party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), has been campaigning for an election boycott by the Swazi population for months. “Our goal is to organise for a popular rejection of the undemocratic Tinkundla system, and its false elections, and to build an unstoppable campaign or a democratic alternative system,” PUDEMO said in a recent statement.

According to PUDEMO’s “People’s Charter”, adopted last year, the organisation demands a “people’s government”, a “people’s centred economy”, “rural development and land reform”, and equal rights and participation for women and minorities.

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Textile firms in Swaziland have been accused helping to buy votes in the kingdom’s primary election.

It is alleged at least three three firms in the industrial town of Matsapha transported their workers by bus to the town of Pigg’s Peak where they were paid E400 (US$38), the equivalent of almost a week’s wages, by a candidate for their votes.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported, ‘Two textile employees have confessed to the Times to have boarded buses from Matsapha to Pigg’s Peak where they voted. The workers alleged that a registration kit was brought to their firm where they were advised to register to vote in Pigg’s Peak.

‘“Everything was arranged by our supervisor. She told us that one nominee in Pigg’s Peak has asked for our votes and that in return the candidate would pay us E400 each. Hearing such an offer, we did not hesitate but registered to vote in Pigg’s Peak. On Saturday, [the day of the primary election] transport was organised and we were driven to Pigg’s Peak where we voted. We were each paid E400.”’

‘This publication has also established that some employees from three textile firms registered to vote in Pigg’s Peak.’

Now, losing candidates want the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the courts to have the results nullified and the voting exercise started afresh.

The Anti-Corruption Commission has also been informed.

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Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Complaints about malpractice at Swaziland’s primary election are flocking into the offices of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).

EBC Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini confirmed to local media that there were a number of complaints that the commission was receiving.

He told the Swazi Observer newspaper that from the day after nominations, a number of people had been flocking to their offices to lodge complaints, which the commission was addressing.

One of the latest complaints came from youths at Msunduza, East Mbabane, who delivered a petition complaining that EBC officers had closed polling station gates at 16:50pm, even though the voting process had started late.

In a separate case, the Moneni Royal Kraal wrote to the EBC to request the primary election in the chiefdom be held again because some candidates allegedly bribed textile workers to vote for them. They also clam that candidates were illegally campaigning ahead of the election on Saturday (24 August 2013).

According to the Times of Swaziland newspaper, ‘They alleged that concerns were raised with the presiding officers and to the police officers who were at the polling station on Saturday during the Primary Elections. It is alleged that they were told that there was nothing wrong.

‘“It became obvious to the residents that the presiding officer was not neutral on issues raised by the nominees. The concerns were also raised even before the start of the counting process to the presiding officer,” the letter alleged.’

The EBC has been under fire for its poor organisation of the election. Members of the EBC were appointed by King Mswati III and have been criticised for being too close to the monarchy.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, accused the EBC of committing treason in their poor handling of the election.

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More accusations of bribery and other illegal activities are surfacing in Swaziland following last Saturday’s primary election.

Police have been informed and complaints made to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which runs the election.

At Nceka, Siphofaneni, it is alleged that winning candidates visited homesteads ahead of the poll to distribute salt and sugar to residents who were told who to vote for.

Losing candidates told local media that voters were also transported free of charge from outside the chiefdom to cast their votes. Some people who were not from the area ended up running away and abandoned the voting upon being accosted by the polic.

They said they raised these concerns with the presiding officer but were ignored. They also reported the irregularities at Siphofaneni Police Station.

At Kwaluseni it was reported that 1,000 people were turned back from the polling stations.

The former Kwaluseni Member of Parliament Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini said 7,400 people had registered to vote but only 2,700 did so. In a letter of complaint to the EBC, he said voters were frustrated because they were turned back after queuing for about six hours after walking 5 km to the polling stations

He also alleged that a relative of one of the winners was using an EBC vehicle to take voters to the polling station.

In the letter, Dlamini said nominations were conducted at Kwaluseni Central Primary School whereas during the elections there were two polling stations being Kwaluseni Primary and Mbhikwakhe Primary School.

‘Some voters were turned back from Kwaluseni to vote at Mbikwakhe and some were turned back from Mbikwakhe to vote at Kwaluseni.  More than 1,000 people were turned back because gates were closed at 5pm and the presence of OSSU (Operational Support Services Unit) police officers intimidated them,’ he stated.

He said more people wanted to vote but could not. He said the poll should have run over two days.

Since the primary election on Saturday (24 August 2013) there have been numerous reports of malpractice.

About 1,000 people in the chiefdom of Ngonini reportedly voted even though only 300 actually live there.

Other complaints include ballot papers having incorrect names of candidates and voters turning up at polling stations but being denied the chance to vote.

The election was called off at Bahai and Magwaneni and at Pigg’s Peak polling stations were allowed to remain open beyond the official closing time.

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The South African trade union confederation COSATU plans to force a blockade of Oshoek and Matsamo border posts with Swaziland in solidarity with pro-democracy activities in the kingdom.

It is to support the Global Week of Action for Democracy in Swaziland and will take place on 6 September.

It has also announced support for a picket at the Swazi Consulate in Johannesburg on the same day.
In a statement COSATU said Swazi people had rejected the so-called tinkhundla elections currently taking place in Swaziland as undemocratic and a ‘royal circus’. It said the elections were, ‘managed by an incompetent, discredited and sycophantic bunch of [King] Mswati’s puppets called the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).’

King Mwsati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. All political parties are banned from the election and the parliament is widely seen outside of Swaziland as powerless.

Separately, a march is planned in the Swaziland capital Mbabane, jointly organised by the Swaziland National Union of Students, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), on 5 September 2013.

In a statement, organisers predicted 10,000 people would take part in the march.

On 6 September, the SUDF and the SDC also plan to run what is billed as a ‘people’s summit’ in Manzini with the intention ‘to profile the boycott of the Tinkhundla election and provide an alternative’.

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Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Newspapers in Swaziland seem determined to mislead their readers into believing they are voting for a government in the national election now taking place – they are not.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, chooses the government and takes no notice of who is elected by his subjects when doing so.

But newspapers are ignoring this reality. This week both the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer, the kingdom’s only two daily newspapers, ran articles claiming that the voters who turned out at the primary election on Saturday (24 August 2013) were electing a ‘government’.

Under the Swazi tinkhundla political system, which is enshrined in the kingdom’s constitution, political parties are banned from taking part in the election, so voters are not being given the chance to choose one set of policies over another.

Instead, the Swazi people are given a limited choice only to elect individuals to the House of Assembly, who are expected solely to be the representatives of their locality. This means once they arrive in parliament they do not work together to create policy or select cabinet ministers and other members of government.

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) recognised the limitations of tinkhundla. ‘This has […] led to successive Houses of Assembly that are dominated by parochial concerns rather than national ones,’ it said in a report on the 2008 elections in Swaziland.

The people of Swaziland are not allowed to elect a full parliament. Instead, they select 55 members of the House of Assembly. The King appoints another 10 to make the total of 65 members.

The people are not allowed to elect any of the 30-member Senate. The king appoints 20 of these and the other 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

Once the election is over, the king will choose a prime minister. The present PM Barnabas Dlamini was chosen by the king in 2008 in contravention of the Swazi constitution. It states the PM should be from the Senate, but Dlamini was not. In fact, he has never been elected to any political office.

King Mswati will also choose the government ministers. He is not obliged to choose elected members of the House of Assembly.

It is generally recognised by observers from democratic countries that the Swazi House of Assembly and Senate are not independent of the king. Parliament simply enacts legislation to satisfy his wishes.

If unexpectedly, they make a decision that the king dislikes, he either ignores it, or forces them to reverse it.

This happened most memorably in October 2012 when the House of Assembly passed a no-confidence vote in the government by a majority of 42 in favour and six against: more than the three-fifth-majority needed by the constitution to compel the king to sack the government (he has no discretion in the matter).

Instead, he chose to ignore the constitution and forced the House to take a revote, which his government won.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) summed up the political system in Swaziland in a 2012 ‘situation report’, ‘Tinkhundla elections can essentially be defined as “organised certainty”, since they reproduce the prevailing political status quo in Swaziland. The ruling regime enjoys an unchallenged monopoly over state resources, and elections have increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy.’

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About 1,000 people in a chiefdom in Swaziland voted at the primary election even though only 300 actually live there.

This is one of many allegations being made following the shambles at the election held on Saturday (24 August 2013).

It was reported to have happened at Ngonini in Nhlambeni. Residents there have complained to the Elections and Boundaries Commission, the group organising the poll, saying the winning candidate had brought supporters to vote for him from outside the area. Residents said as many as 1,000 people voted, although only 300 lived in the chiefdom.

About 400 people who were not known in the chiefdom were allowed to vote there, and were given first preference to vote, the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, reported.

There were similar complaints that people from outside the chiefdoms had been allowed to vote from across Swaziland, including at Vuvulane in the Mhlume constituency.

The Observer also reported unspecific allegations that some people said they were paid for their votes.

Other complaints emerging through social media and newspapers in Swaziland include ballot papers having incorrect names of candidates and voters turning up at polling stations but being denied the chance to vote.

It has been revealed that the polling station at Mhlangatane was only open for four hours on Saturday.

The Observer reported, ‘Most people felt that the elections were far from being “free and fair”, arguing that voting process was opened for just four hours while in other stations they were given the full 10 hours or more.’

It was previously reported that the election was called off at Bahai and Magwaneni and at Pigg’s Peak polling stations were allowed to remain open beyond the official closing time.

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Monday, 26 August 2013


The chief editor of King Mswati III’s newspaper has accused Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) of committing treason for its poor handling of the elections in the kingdom.

Writing in the Swazi Observer Mbongeni Mbingo said, ‘It is obvious that the EBC was never ready for this election, and when we consider that they have been in office for so long, it begs the question of what they have been doing all along. In fact, that’s being polite. What they have done is treasonable.’ 
He added the EBC could not be allowed to ruin the election.

The Swazi Observer is in effect owned by the king and widely recognised as a propaganda sheet for the monarchy.

The elections in Swaziland have been beset with problems. Registration of voters had to be extended by a week because computers and personnel were not ready; the nomination process for candidates was flawed as many people who wanted to be nominated were ignored by election presiding officers; illegal campaigning took place ahead of the primary elections and at the primaries themselves some polls were called off and others allowed to remain open beyond the official closing time.

Mbingo wrote it was ‘tempting to even suggest that the EBC intended for this chaos to happen’.

What the newspaper failed to report was that King Mswati appointed the EBC in 2008 and at the time many civil society organisations and pro-democracy campaigners criticised the choices because members were inexperienced. The Swazi Constitution demands that the EBC chair should be a qualified judge, but King Mswati appointed one of his half-brothers, Chief Gija Dlamini, who was variously described at the time as an electrician or electrical engineer, to the post, which he still holds today.

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) shortly after the 2008 election reported, ‘Almost all the stakeholders regarded the members of the EBC as royal appointees.

‘Stakeholders did not regard the EBC as independent and believed that the EBC operated under the instruction of the King. Stakeholders also expressed the view that the EBC was not representative of society as a whole, but was drawn exclusively from government officials or members of the aristocracy.

‘Most believed that the Commissioners do not meet the qualifications laid down in the constitution in Article 90(6): “The chairperson, deputy chairperson and the other members of the Commission shall possess the qualifications of a Judge of the superior courts or be persons of high moral character, proven integrity, relevant experience and demonstrable competence in the conduct of public affairs”’.

Pro-Royalists in Swaziland have been trying to talk up the election which is due on 20 September 2013, to counter the international community’s view that it is worthless as the parliament that is elected has no powers. The power in Swaziland is in the hands of King Mswati who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election.

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Sunday, 25 August 2013


Swaziland’s primary election was a shambles across the kingdom on Saturday (24 August 2013) as incorrect ballot papers were issued, campaign laws were broken, residents threatened to boycott the poll and police had to get a riot squad escort to remove ballot boxes from one polling station.

The election was called off at Bahai and Magwaneni and at Pigg’s Peak polling stations were allowed to remain open beyond the official closing time.

The election for the Mbabane West Constituency at Bahai and Magwaneni polling stations had to be called off after it was discovered the ballot papers had the picture of one candidate appearing twice at the expense of a competitor.

When this was discovered Mangwaneni residents demanded that the election be halted. After much confusion the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) which is responsible for organising the election, announced polling would be postponed until the following day (Sunday). But it could not be established if those who had already voted would have to come back and start afresh.

At Lubuli, Chief Mshikashika Ngcamphalala had to be brought in to calm angry residents at the Ngcamphalala Royal Kraal.

This was after residents complained about the reinstatement of Mana Mavimbela, the18-year-old woman who had been unlawfully banned from having her name put forward as a candidate during the nominations on 4 August because she was wearing jeans at the time. 

On the eve of the primary election, the Swazi High Court ruled she should be allowed to stand. The EBC then put her name on the ballot paper even though she had not been officially nominated and said the ballot should be postponed by one day.

At a public meeting on Saturday residents complained that this meant Mavimbela had been give a free passage in the nominations. Many residents said they would boycott the primary election.

Chief Mshikashika Ngcamphalala confirmed to local media that he had to go and address residents of his area.

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported, ‘The chief said he received a call from officials of the EBC who pleaded with him to go and reason with the people because they were not in agreement with what the EBC officials were saying.’

The newspaper also reported the elections at Pigg’s Peak, ‘were full of drama which was accompanied by sporadic fights, accusations of vote-rigging and general confusion’.

The newspaper reported, ‘The elections were so chaotic such that at some point, it was suggested that the elections should be called off and postponed to today.  This happened when the general cut-off time of 5pm as set by the EBC, elapsed.  Five pm passed while a queue of over 2 000 people waited outside the polling station for a chance to get inside.’

The elections continued ‘way into the night’, the Times Sunday reported.

At Lubuli, residents protested after police took ballot boxes away from the polling station at Lubuli High School once voting had ended. Usually the count takes place at the same place as the polling. 
State riot police the Operational Support Services Unit escorted a police car away from the polling station to avoid toyi-toyi-ing residents.

The Times Sunday also reported that the turnout of voters was very poor in some areas. It said that officers at the Mbabane East Polling station at Woodlands High School, Sidvwashini, ‘were lazing around with no one to attend to’.

One person the newspaper spoke to called Mfundo ‘Shakura’ Dlamini, said, ‘It [looks] like many people decided to stay indoors and snub the elections.’

At Pigg’s Peak a man was briefly detained by police on suspicion of campaigning for one of the candidates.

All campaigning for the primary election is banned by law, but local media reported campaigning was taking place behind the scenes.

The Times Sunday reported, ‘The Pigg’s Peak elections lived up to its billing of being controversial as there were sporadic incidents from rival teams, leading campaigns and manhandling each other but the presence of the police calmed the morning session of the voting process which remained peaceful.’

The newspaper said some voters appeared intoxicated and others wore t-shirts with campaign slogans. Despite breaking the law, they were not disturbed by the police.

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Saturday, 24 August 2013


The woman who was banned from being nominated to stand in the election in Swaziland because she was wearing pants has won a High Court case to have her name put on the ballot paper. 

And, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has been forced to postpone the election in her chiefdom at Lubulini to allow her to stand.

Mana Mavimbela, aged 18, drew international attention to the undemocratic elections in King Mswati’s Swaziland, when she tried to have herself nominated on 4 August 2013 to stand in the primary election for the House of Assembly. The official presiding officer, employed by the EBC, refused to allow her to do so because she was dressed in jeans.

Now, High Court Judge Mbutfo Mamba, meeting in emergency session, has ordered the election at Lubulini to be postponed to allow her name to be included in the list of candidates.

Mavimbela was not the only woman discriminated against at the nominations because she was wearing pants. Fakazile Luhlanga of Ndvwabangeni in the Mhlangatane constituency was also not allowed permission to nominate a candidate as she was wearing cargo pants.

Local media reported Luhlanga saying she was told that she was dressed like a man and would be a bad influence to the community members as they would want to emulate her.

Some chiefs across Swaziland imposed the ban on women wearing trousers, shorts or mini-skirts at nomination centres. 

Chief Petros Dvuba of Mpolonjeni in Mbabane, the kingdom’s capital, said people who would be going to the nominations should dress properly and show respect as it was King Mswati III’s exercise.  He told local media, ‘Even those who have relaxed hair should cover their heads when going to that place.’ 

The primary elections were due to take place on Saturday (24 August 2013). At the primary elections one candidate is elected to represent the chiefdom in the ‘secondary’ election on 20 September where one person from the Inkhundla (constituency) will be elected to the House of Assembly.

The election in Swaziland is considered by many to be valueless because the parliament that is elected has no power, as this rests with King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Political parties are barred from taking part in the election. The election is only to select 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The other 10 members are appointed by the king. No members of the Senate House are elected by the people. Of its 30 members, 20 are chosen by the king and 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

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