Swaziland came 142nd out of 167 countries in the latest international survey on democracy.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index labelled Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, an ‘authoritarian’ country.
It said ‘In these states [authoritarian], state political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed.
Many countries in this category are outright dictatorships. Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair. There is disregard for abuses and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regime. There is repression of criticism of the government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary.’
Political parties are not allowed to take part in elections and most of the political groupings in Swaziland that advocate for democracy have been banned under the King’s Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people: the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.
One of only two national newspapers in Swaziland is in effect owned by the King. The state controls one of only two television stations and all radio, except for a small Christian-orientated channel.
The EIU scored Swaziland 3.3 out of ten on the Democracy Index, lower than Iraq. Swaziland scored 0.92 on electoral process and pluralism and 3.53 on civil liberties.
The new report follows one published in December 2016 by Afrobarometer. In that, Swaziland came last out of 36 countries in Africa in a survey on political freedom.
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