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'˜Swazi elections could be violent'

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MBABANE – The reputable Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Africa says Swaziland’s forthcoming parliamentary elections, billed for August 2013 could be marred by violence.

The organisation says this could result from public dissatisfaction, stemming particularly from among other things, governments unsatisfactory activity in the year 2012.

It said such had worsened and had also been exacerbated by the government’s failure to heed demands from the unions for reduced expenditure and a pro-poor budget.

It further said the public discontent could also be caused by government’s rejection of calls by pro-democracy formations for the harmonisation of legal provisions that permit democratic political party organisation and contestation in elections.

"Against this backdrop, a repeat of the political polarity and violence preceding and subsequent to the 2008 elections cannot be ruled out," reads a report from the institution.

"Equally, in future, there are likely to be increased acts of resistance against the Tinkhundla political system." ISS is considered as the premier research institute on Human Security in Africa.

It has offices in Pretoria South Africa, Kenya, Senegal and Ethiopia.

In its situation report on Swaziland published recently, the organisation said the country’s Tinkhundla elections could essentially be defined as ‘organised certainty’ since they reproduce the prevailing political status quo in Swaziland.

"The ruling elite enjoy an unchallenged monopoly over state resources, and elections have increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy."

The organisation said this had underlined previous elections observers’ criticism of Swazi elections.

"For example, the 2003 election observation report of the Commonwealth Expert Team (CET) questioned the elections’ credibility because they resulted in a Parliament which does not have power, indicating a predictable reconfiguration of power because of the ban on political party participation.

Similarly, most, if not all, external observer mission reports in 2008 underscored the need for political plurality and recommended that the government compromise on ‘sections of the constitution that create conflict between government and civil society.’ The organisation said these reports made specific mention of the lack of registration and participation of political parties in elections and governance.

It said these seemed to undermine the legitimacy of the political process and also enable unnecessary social, political conflict and unrest that endangers the stability of the state and the well-being of society.

It further observed that, only party-like entities such as Sive Siyinqaba were allowed to participate in elections, albeit on an individual basis.

"This basically leaves unchallenged the political and economic monopoly of government."

It went on to identify the three key demands of the pro-democracy groups in Swaziland which flow from previous elections.

These were direct representation, universal suffrage, and measures to guarantee the implementation of political rights and freedoms.

"While a complete overhaul of the system was not expected ahead of the 2013 polls because of the lack of a critical mass behind the pro-democracy movement, some change in the political status quo was expected."

International calls for reform were anticipated and it was hoped that the Swazi government would be incentivised by economic imperatives to restore its credibility through demonstrating commitment to improving governance and development. However, these moves failed to yield anything. Past critique of the credibility of the 2008 elections was also predicted to propel Swaziland to try and comply with the wide spectrum of international and regional obligations relating to democratic governance to which it had acceded, but which it had not domesticated.

This also hit a snag because of the primacy of Swazi traditions which prevail over modern forms of democratic governance.

These featured most prominently, despite tacit commitments from the Swazi government to address the anomalies.

The ISS further said the lack of discernible multilateral pressure on Swaziland in the past had been ascribed to the country’s relative geo-political insignificance.

"There have also been assumptions that those external policy makers, including those in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region, have acceded to the government’s rejection of demands for democratic change."

 

"The exception was in 1996 when South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe held an emergency meeting to press Swaziland to institute a constitutional review process. On the ground, very few foreign embassies, if any, have attempted to connect with advocacy groups and/or the Swazi government."

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