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Ahead of a vote in Eswatini, Africa's last absolute monarchy, some lack hope

An election billboard in Eswatini.   -  
Copyright © africanews
Cleared / AFP


Eswatini will hold on Friday (Sep. 29) parliamentary elections in which political parties cannot directly take part.

About 585,000 registered voters will be called to choose 59 members of the lower house of parliament, which plays only an advisory role to the monarch.

In addition to elected lawmakers, 10 are directly appointed by King Mswati III.

A situation this student Union leader deplores.

"They are saying that there are elections that are free and fair, there is nothing like that. The world must know that in Swaziland we are living in absolute monarch. The three arms of government are under one man, not even a certain, one man. King Mswati III is the one that decides what is going to happen."

According to the UNDP, Eswatini's 2021 Labour Force Survey stated that 59.1% of youth aged between 20 and 24 were unemployed. An issue the King is addressing, his special advisor says.

"(Talking about the king) He is doing his level best to ensure that job opportunities are availed for young people like any developing nation," Moses Dlamini

Few political gatherings have taken place during a two-week campaigning period.

Only about a dozen of candidates nominated during primaries last month are known to have ties to the opposition. 

If some contest to represent their constituencies, human rights lawyer Sibusiso Nhlabatsi says these elections cannot change the way the 1.2 million people are governed: "The purpose of an election in my view, is to form a government, if you can’t form a government then the elections are meaningless,"

"You go to a polling station because you want to exercise a right on how you want to be governed. You want to have a say on how you want to be governed. ..., so under the current establishment it is even difficult for one to hold a public official accountable, because you have elected the person, but once he is in parliament he is generally at the behest of the King."

Most opposition groupings have called for a boycott. Three have told voters to go to the polls.

Polls will open at 0500 GMT on Friday (Sep. 29).

Mswati can veto any legislation. The king is constitutionally above the law.

He appoints the prime minister and the cabinet, can dissolve both parliament and the government and commands police and the army.

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