News 24 South Africa
17 September 2008
Swazi vote 'a mockery'
Mbabane - A Swaziland opposition group on Tuesday questioned the sending of vote observers to witness a national poll on Friday in the mountain kingdom, calling it a "mockery of democratic elections".
"It puzzles the mind as to why are they endorsing this joke," Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) secretary-general Vincent Ncongwane.
Ncongwane said Swaziland, an absolute monarchy, had excluded political parties from competing for political power.
A new prime minister and a cabinet will be appointed in the parliamentary elections but since political parties are banned, election candidates can only stand as individuals.
"On a number of occasions we have registered our disapproval of this circus that is called an election. This thing falls far too short of credible elections so we wonder what they were here to observe," Ncongwane said.
Election observers from the Southern African Development Community, Pan African Parliament (PAP), the Commonwealth and the African Union will monitor the vote which is the first to be conducted under the new Constitution of 2006.
Swazi ruler King Mswati III, who ascended the throne at age 18, keeps a strong traditional grip on power, with responsibility for appointing the prime minister, legislature and judiciary.
Mswati was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the richest royals in the world. Two-thirds of Swazi people live in poverty, and the country has one of the world's highest rates of HIV/Aids.