Swazi political party 'challenges electoral system in court'

2018-07-21 14:00
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A Swaziland political party has challenged the country's political system a month before Africa's last absolute monarch goes to the polls. 

The Swaziland High Court was on Friday expected to hear a case which would be critical to the legitimacy of the country's upcoming elections.

The landlocked southern African country was expected to hold its primary elections on August 18, and its secondary elections on September 18.

Swaziland’s government has maintained that the electoral system is a constituency-based system founded on individual merit, and that there is no place for political parties within this system.

But, a local political party, the Swazi Democratic Party (SWADEPA), has approached the High Court for clarification.

In a statement, SWADEPA President Jan Sithole said the candidates who were going to be running for office should still be allowed to publicly declare their support for any of the political parties.

International democratic practices

Sithole said that the candidates should also be allowed to "wear and display the symbols and slogans of the political party to which they belong, should be entitled to advocate for the political party’s policies and programmes should they so wish during their campaigning and should be able to receive endorsement and financial support from such political party".

Sithole said that such declarations were in line with international democratic practices during an elections.

"Such an interpretation is in line with international benchmarks for democratic elections. For example, the AU’s 2002 Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa specifically provides that every citizen shall have the freedom to be a member of a political party; and that individuals or political parties shall have the right to freedom of movement, to campaign and to express political opinions with full access to the media," he said.

Sithole said that the King had far more power than the electorate, making it very difficult for the electorate to hold parliament accountable.

Multi-party democracy

According to reports last year, several social movements and trade unions called for the repulsion of a 44 year decree banning political parties.

The decree, which was passed in 1973 by the father to the current King Mswati III, "outlawed political parties, dissolved parliament and placed legislative, executive and judicial powers in the hands of the king".

"What is needed is for both Swazi citizens, SADC countries and the broader regional and international community to support the eSwatini [Swaziland] government and political parties to achieve multi-party democracy," said Sithole.

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Read more on:    au  |  sadc  |  king mswati iii  |  swaziland  |  southern africa

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