Country Report Swaziland January 2008

Outlook for 2008-09: Domestic politics

Political power in Swaziland will continue to lie almost exclusively within the royal court of King Mswati III and the queen mother, Ntombi, as the constitution gives the monarchy absolute power. Although traditionalists will continue to protect the status quo, modernists are pushing for reform. Whether or not political parties will be legalised will depend on the outcome of a series of court cases over the interpretation of the new constitution that took effect in February 2006. This will have a significant impact on the parliamentary election, which is due to be held in October 2008 and which at present can be contested only by independents.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of a party-based election, as this would be a new phenomenon in Swaziland-the population is essentially conservative and support for the progressive movements could well be below the level that they claim. Although conservative support would be split between the traditional royalist party, Imbokodvo, and a moderate political movement, Sive Siyinqaba Sibahle Sinje, their combined vote should exceed that of the progressives, who will face funding problems. Together with the moderate Swaziland Federation of Labour, Sive Siyinqaba will be an important force for cautious change.

If parties are not allowed to participate, Sive Siyinqaba will put up a slate of unofficial candidates for election in 2008 that will be based on the tinkhundla (traditional voting) system, while the traditionalists will continue to operate as in the past. Some of the progressive modernists, such as the centre-left Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, are likely to rethink their strategies and contest the election in an attempt to capture sufficient parliamentary seats to change the constitution in order to allow political parties to function. The more radical groups, such as the People's United Democratic Movement, are likely to continue to shun the tinkhundla system, staging mass stayaways and border blockades. Most critically, parliament will remain a weak institution, incapable of challenging the government, which will remain bloated by vested political interests, corruption and inefficiency.

© 2008 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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