Eswatini: opposition calls for change after polls close

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Voting ended on Friday in Eswatini’s legislative elections, Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

After sunset, a handful of voters were still lining up to cast their ballots at a polling station in the capital, Mbabane, with not much hope the vote will bring much change.

“The attempt was actually to say let us have people who are going to go into Parliament and be a voice of the voiceless, understanding that in Swaziland there is still a dictatorship, where in the King actually has all the power, absolute monarchy that is. So we want a voice in Parliament to say, let us democratize,” explains Thantaza Silolo, Swaziland Liberation Movement spokesperson.

Despite recent and deadly pro-democracy protests, no turmoil was observed during these elections in which voters were to choose 59 members of the lower house of parliament, which plays only an advisory role to King Mswati.

READ ALSO: Eswatini readies for vote seen as contest between monarchy and opposition  

Polling stations started to close at around 7:00 pm local and counting began in the southern African nation, ruled by King Mswati III for the last four decades.

“Let us have the economy shared amongst ourselves, and let us have power, because they were saying let us have a Prime Minister that has been elected by the people not just a Prime Minister who has been appointed or appointed by the King. Because when the Prime Minister is appointed by the King it means he will not account to the population, he will only account to the one that appointed him, because he holds the power,” adds Thantaza Silolo.

Formerly known as Swaziland, Eswatini was shaken in 2021 by pro-democracy protests that were violently quashed by security forces, with dozens of people killed.

The results, to be announced within a few days, are seen as a foregone conclusion by the opposition, which largely called for a boycott of the vote.

Political parties are banned in the landlocked country between South Africa and Mozambique, and lawmakers cannot be affiliated with political groups.

The constitution emphasises “individual merit” as the basis for selecting MPs. While it allows for freedom of association, opposition groupings are often run from abroad.

Most candidates are loyal to King Mswati.

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