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Swaziland’s rotten elections: pro-democracy forces vindicated

For more on Swaziland's democracy movement, click HERE.

Statement by the Communist Party of Swaziland

October 1, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Information received by the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) indicate that the party and all other pro-democracy forces that wholly opposed the September 20 elections of the King Mswati regime did the right thing by calling on people not to be fooled by the sham poll.

Only just over 100,000 people voted in the primary elections. There was less than that voting in the second round. This is about 500,000 fewer voters than the Mswati regime trumpeted as likely to pack the voting stations. This is much less than in the previous elections, suggesting that popular dissatisfaction with the regime is increasing.

Mswati has no mandate to govern. This much is certain from the ban on political parties and organisations working for democracy. But skewed, closed and unfair elections with no other aim than to renew Mswati’s support base wholly failed to deliver. Mswati cannot even get enough people behind him when he rigs his own polls.

Among other things the CPS has information through its own election boycott campaign that:

  • candidates’ campaigns were financed by the regime to the tune of E30,000;
  • this money was used to buy alcohol and food parcels to bribe voters to vote; civil servants were threatened with dismissal if they didn’t register to vote;
  • most ballot papers were spoiled – partly because the depictions of the candidates were unclear; there was official vote rigging: the regime used army trucks to transport voters from one area to another to cast votes fraudulently for favoured regime candidates;
  • to attract voters there was a sudden surge on election days in the distribution of food parcels used by the World Vision "Work for Food" program –- a blatant misuse of the program;
  • the regime has failed in its pretence at gender equality by failing to attract women candidates to have 30% women in the assembly. At most 17% will be women, and only if the king’s direct appointees are all women.

This information was presented at a meeting of the CPS central committee held at the end of September.

The positions of Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) concerning the regime’s elections were wholly focused on technical aspects, such as the supply of ballot boxes. The CPS hopes that the reports by these organisations on the elections will have something to say about their undemocratic nature, in addition to the fact that the elections quickly degenerated into a corrupt shambles.

The CPS also hopes that the governments of individual states in the Southern Africa region will pluck up the courage to say something about the lack of democracy highlighted by Mswati’s election charade.

The CPS stresses that statements made by the British think tank Chatham House in the run-up to the second round of the elections attempted to give people the false impression that the elections offered a window of opportunity for reforming the absolute monarchical regime. Using the pretence of academic objectivity, Chatham House essentially presented the regime as open to change.

The CPS views this insidious intervention, and the support it garnered from reactionary analysts in South Africa, as a slippery attempt by the British to block the efforts of pro-democracy forces opposing Mswati and his elections.

Chatham House and the US Freedom House produce reports that rightly highlight some elements of the terrible suffering imposed by the absolute monarchy on the Swazi people. But their concern is to ensure that a progressive, anti-capitalist, pro-people democracy does not replace the Mswati regime. They go out of their way to isolate progressive Swazi voices, and of course are dead against the CPS and its programs.

Similarly, the CPS is concerned at reports that the European Union intends to establish a permanent mission in Swaziland. We do not think that the scale of Swaziland’s economy or export portfolio warrants a EU presence in the country.

Nor does the CPS think that the development work carried out by the EU will improve things in the country. The developmental disaster that afflicts the Swazi people is systemic. It is engineered and sustained by the regime.

It is important that if the EU does set up shop in Swaziland that it does not interfere with Swazi civil society or the pro-democracy movement in the time-honoured imperial way of twisting political developments to Western wishes.

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