African Union election observers urged eSwatini on Saturday to lift a ban on political parties and allow candidates to campaign freely in the tiny country, which went to the polls this week. The AU statement came a day after parliamentary elections in landlocked eSwatini, which is ruled by an absolute monarch and was known as Swaziland until earlier this year. Candidates cannot be affiliated to any political group under the constitution which emphasises “individual merit” as the basis for selecting members of parliament and public officials.
Elected lawmakers have little power as King Mswati III has complete control over parliament and government as well as the judiciary, civil service and security forces.
“The mission encourages the eSwatini authorities to consider reviewing the 1973 decree on the ban on political parties and allow them to freely participate in the election,” said AU mission head James Michel, former Seychelles president.
The AU also noted that campaigning was banned for the first round of voting, which “does not allow for thorough scrutiny of potential candidates.”