Southern African News Features
Swaziland: Polls 'Peaceful, Transparent, Credible'
9 October 2008
Regional election observers to the recent parliamentary polls in Swaziland have praised the conduct of the elections and the high voter turnout.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) described the 19 September elections as "free, peaceful, transparent and credible."
SEOM praised the "high turnout and gender equity in the electoral process," adding that there was a peaceful atmosphere and a high level of political tolerance.
The SEOM, headed by Mozambique's Minister for Diplomatic Affairs, Francisco Madeira, said that the elections reflected the will of the Swazi people.
"The mission is . pleased to congratulate the people of the Kingdom of Swaziland for the lesson of civility, good behaviour, mutual tolerance and, above all, for the tremendous efforts to reach the perfection as they embark on their gradual and challenging road for the entrenchment of democracy," Madeira said.
The SEOM praised the new Constitution (enacted in 2005) and other laws and regulations governing the electoral process in Swaziland, saying these fully comply with SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The regional mission made some observations about Swaziland's unique electoral system, noting that the electoral system is "unique in the sense that it is based on a community censored individual merit and unfolds in two tiers, the first of which SADC was not involved in because it was regarded as primary, and the second and final which SADC has just witnessed."
The SEOM added, "The voter's roll is also unique as it uses the Optimum Mark Recognition (OMR). This prevents potential double voting and non-existent voters."
The OMR is a system used during voter registration, where a voter identification card bearing a unique voter identification number is issued as proof of registration. The unique identifier can be used to facilitate future updates to the register.
The SEOM was dispatched on the leadership of Mozambique as current Deputy Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. Swaziland chairs the Organ.
SADC sent a 30-member observer mission which was deployed a week before the elections and covered all provinces.
The mission noted that the vote counting was transparent as the candidates and their agents, foreign and local observers, witnessed the process.
The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) observer team said the elections were carried out within the legal framework of elections in Swaziland.
Candidates and voters were able to participate in the election in an atmosphere of peace and calm. The presence of police officers at polling centres was commendable as they kept law and order without any intimidation, according to a statement by PAP.
Head of PAP mission, Mary Mugyeny, who is also a Ugandan legislator, congratulated all stakeholders for their respective roles in the process.
"On election day, voting stations opened on time and the mission observed that operations within the stations were carried out efficiently and professionally by a sufficient number of polling staff," Mugyeny said.
She said in the areas covered by PAP observers, there were no incidences of "party agents disagreeing with the outcome of the counting and verification of the ballots and number of votes."
Mugyeny said the PAP findings were that the elections were conducted efficiently in a secure environment, and hailed the Swazi government for ensuring a 30 percent representation of women in the parliament.
PAP commended the use of the electronic voter's card and photographs in the voter's roll, which it said promoted transparency.
"Overall, the elections were free and fair," said the PAP mission, citing "a few small problems that need to be rectified in future elections."
PAP noted the problem of political parties, which were not permitted to contest in the elections. The Mission said these problems infringed on the rights of those citizens wishing to participate in elections through political parties and does not meet regional and international standards and principles for democratic elections.
Both missions urged all political parties and individuals to respect the will of the people and reminded that all concerns should be addressed in line with the laws of the country.
"The PAP Observer Mission would like to call upon all political stakeholders and peace-loving Swazis to accept and respect the outcome of the elections, since they are a culmination of the democratic process which is a reflection of the political will of the Swazi people," said the PAP statement.
The polls in Swaziland marked the third parliamentary elections in the region this year following those in Zimbabwe in March and Angola in September.