Voters in the tiny mountain kingdom of Swaziland are voting to elect a new parliament in an election dismissed by critics as a rubber stamp for King Mswati III’s absolute rule. About 415,000 of the country’s 1.2 million citizens are registered to cast their ballots for 55 parliamentarians on Friday. However, of the 65 seats in the parliament, 10 are allocated by the king when he selects his cabinet and prime minister. Political parties are not formally banned, but are restricted, and the country remains sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Election candidates are hand-picked locally by traditional chiefs, who are loyal to the king. Mswati holds ultimate sway over the government: he can veto new laws, dissolve parliament and may not be sued or charged. Opposition groups including the banned Pudemo party and South Africa-based Swaziland Solidarity Network have called for a boycott of the poll. The king recently described the system as a “monarchical democracy”.
Musa Dube, deputy general secretary of the Communist Party of Swaziland, has been remanded in custody on sedition charges for allegedly distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of the kingdom’s election. He is charged with two counts of possessing and distributing leaflets published by the CPS at Kakhoza in Manzini. He appeared in Manzini Magistrates’ Court on Monday and was remanded to Zakhele Remand Centre and is due to reappear on 25 September 2013, pending committal to the High Court. An application for bail is expected to be lodged.