King Mswati III may have misled his subjects when he told them the number of people registering to vote in Swaziland's election this year was the highest ever.
Although more than 411,084 people out of an eligible 600,000 registered to vote at the election due to start later this month (August 2013), it represented only 68.5 per cent of those entitled to vote. At the last election in 2008, the percentage of eligible voters who registered was 87.6 percent.
The king, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was talking up the election when he dissolved the national parliament on Friday (2 August 2013). He had summoned his subjects to the Cattle Byre at Ludzidzini for ‘sibaya’, a people’s parliament, which he claims is the supreme policy making body in Swaziland.
He told the crowd, ‘We have heard that registration figures are very high this time around as most Swazis want to participate in the elections. This year, when compared to other years, has the highest registration figures.’
In 2008, the number of people registered to vote was 350,778 from a possible 400,000.
When the election came in 2008 only 189,559 people actually voted: 47.4 percent of the 400,000 eligible.
The election is shrouded in controversy as the parliament it selects has no power as this is vested in the king. The election is only to select 55 members of the House of Assembly. A further 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. Political parties are banned from participating in the election.
King Mswati also told the crowd at sibaya, estimated bySwazi media to number ‘close to10,000’ people, ‘Your being here is also a sign of respect. I know you are here because you want to attend so that you hear what the King has to say to you.’
However, he did not reveal that at the last sibaya, held in August 2012 at which people criticised the king’s appointed government and called for it to be sacked, attendance was 12,000, according to media reports at the time.
The first round of the election is on 24 August and the main election is on 20 September 2013.
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