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Swaziland: Why Vote?

Swaziland extended the deadline for voters to register for local polls after only about 27,000 people signed up, less than a tenth of the 350,000 in the previous polls in 2008. The population is about one million.

The original registration deadline was August 12th, but Housing minister Lindiwe Dlamini said it had been extended to give more people the chance to register.

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland as well as the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), both banned organisations, have urged Swazis to boycott the elections in protest at King Mswati III’s rule. They say the elections are a sham in the tightly controlled absolute monarchy.

“We won’t legitimise the system by attending any election organised under the prevailing undemocratic system,” said Vincent Dlamini, the union’s national organising secretary.

Political parties are banned under Swaziland’s royal Tinkhundla system of government, in which candidates are chosen by local chiefs, controlled by the king.

Protests have grown since last 2011 in the traditionally peaceful kingdom, which is bordered on three sides by South Africa. The country’s problems are partly blamed on Mswati’s extravagant lifestyle, supporting his 13 wives each in her own palace and high-flying international shopping trips, all paid for by state funds.

This largesse is against a background of extreme poverty for the majority of the population. An Institute of Security Studies report mid-August points out that ‘athough Swaziland is classified as a lower-middle-income country, income distribution is highly skewed, with an estimated 70 per cent of the total population living in abject poverty.’

The ISS situation report analyses ‘Swaziland’s non-party political system and the 2013 Tinkhundla elections’ and looks at the ‘fervent” royal opposition to multipartyism.

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