The leader of Swaziland’s banned opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) has called on citizens to boycott this year’s national elections.
Mario Masuku says elections in Swaziland are part of the government’s plan to prevent the population from demanding multiparty democracy in the southern African kingdom.
He says the administration in Mbabane has so far refused to adhere to both the United Nations and the African Union’s declaration of fundamental rights in elections, which allows citizens to freely elect their leaders.
“Therefore any national elections that are not democratic are not worth the practice,” Masuku said. “And we call on the people to boycott such elections, and call for a democratic dispensation where all the ground is level. Any person who comes to observe this must first state what are the condition, is Swaziland a democratic state? Before they say [the elections] are free and fair.”
But Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku accused groups calling for the elections boycott of being cowards.
The Times of Swaziland newspaper quoted the deputy prime minister as saying “If you go about writing graffiti and forcing people to follow you, it is a sign of cowardice.”
But, opposition groups have often pressed the government to ensure more democratic reforms as well as to allow the formation and participation of political parties in elections.
Political observers say the government is unlikely to meet opposition demands for multiparty democracy in the kingdom.
PUDEMO leader Masuku says the government has often thwarted efforts by groups to educate citizens about democracy.
“People are told that if you don’t participate in the elections you are not patriotic, and so forth, and they will indeed go to form a government. But, we all know that that parliament has no power. All the power is vested in the king, and the people of Swaziland have no power,” said PUDEMO’s Masuku.
Swaziland currently prohibits the formation of political parties. It also allows King Mswati III to appoint 20 members of the 30-member Upper House of parliament, with 10 appointed by members of the national House of Assembly (parliament).
The king also appoints 10 out of the 65 members of the National House of Assembly, while citizens vote for the remaining 55 members.
“Where in any democratic state where groupings are not allowed to participate in elections? “…We are saying these national elections are undemocratic,” said Masuku.