Nearly two years after the national election in Swaziland took place in September 2013, the full results have not been released.
The election was widely criticised by international observers as not ‘free and fair’ at the time. The Commonwealth and the African Union separately called for the Swazi Constitution to be rewritten.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election and the King chooses the government.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which ran the election, promised shortly after the poll to release the full results, but it did not.
The EBC announced the names of the winners at each of the 55 constituencies in the House of Assembly promptly after voting took place on 20 September 2013, but only gave the number of votes cast for 45 of them. No figures were given for the losing candidates in any of the constituencies and the total number of voters taking part in the election has never been revealed.
This raises the spectre of election fraud because in order to determine the number of votes cast for the winner in each constituency the election officer should have counted the votes cast for all the candidates.
Only 55 members in the 65-seat House of Assembly are elected by the people. King Mswati appoints the other 10. None of the kingdom’s 30 senators are elected by the people.
The parliament has no real powers and is widely considered outside the kingdom to be a fig-leaf to protect King Mswati from criticism that he runs Swaziland as a personal fiefdom.
In the run up to the vote prodemocracy groups urged a boycott of the election and following the poll there was speculation within the kingdom that this had been effective.
It was important for King Mswati that there was seen to be a high voter turnout. Only weeks before the election, he announced that Swaziland’s tinkhundla system of democracy would in future be known as a ‘monarchical democracy’. He said this would be a partnership between himself and the people.
The turnout at the election was seen by some as a referendum on how much his subjects supported him.
Following the 2013 election, the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the turnout of people on election day was ‘about 400,000’. However, official figures from the EBC stated that only 411,084 Swazis living in Swaziland had registered to vote, which would have meant if the newspaper was correct the turnout would be 97.3 percent.
In the week following the election the Swaziland Democratic United Front suggested the turnout might be as low as 80,000. The Swaziland Communist Party put the figure at 100,000.
On 3 August 2015, Edgar Hillary, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, reported to the Swazi Parliament that there was ‘division’ at the EBC.
The Swazi Observer reported him saying this had ‘jeopardised operations of the institution and as a result, the 2013 elections report had still not been finalised’.