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May 26, 2013

Swaziland Vote Will Be Credible, Says Elections Chief

by Peter Clottey

The chairman of Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission says he is confident that this year’s national elections would be transparent and credible.

“I am confident it would be very credible like the one we had before, and judging by the interest of the people, I am 100 percent confident that it is going to be a credible election,” said Prince Gija.

He said the electoral commission will begin sending invitation letters from Monday to international poll observer groups to monitor the elections.

“We are expecting probably the head of state to be signing [the document], which will actually declare the date of the election, giving us dates like the nomination dates and the election dates,” Gija said. “So, by then we would be able next week to invite all organizations and countries who are interested [to monitor the vote].”

He says preparations are underway to register prospective voters before the end of June.

“We hope to finish registration by the 23rd of June and we are getting ready for the elections, which would be somewhere around September,” Gija said. “From the statisticians, they gave us a population of 600,000 Swazis who are eligible to vote and we are targeting that number.”

Gija says funds allocated by the government to enable his group administer the election might not be sufficient. He says his group might need the equivalent of about $12 million to administer the vote.

“The government did afford us Emalangeni 100 million [about $10 million] at the moment, even though we know that we’ve shown signs of overshooting that budget because we want to make the elections as competitive as possible to other elections, and as transparent,” said Gija.

His comments came after pro-democracy groups called for citizens to boycott the vote saying, the elections are part of the government’s plan to prevent the people from demanding full multiparty democracy in the southern African kingdom.

Critics also say King Mswati III and his administration have 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.

Electoral chief Gija says his group has implemented measures to ensure the elections are peaceful.

“We work along with the police force [members] who are merely providing security and providing assistance to make sure everything goes smoothly,” said Gija.
Clottey interview with Prince Gija, Swaziland's electoral chief