Only 27,000 register for Swazi polls amid boycott call
Swaziland has extended the deadline for voters to register for local polls after only about 27,000 people signed up -- less than a tenth of 350,000 in previous polls -- a government minister said Monday.
The registration deadline was Sunday, but the banned opposition and labour unions have urged Swazis to boycott the election which they deride as a sham in the tightly controlled absolute monarchy.
Housing minister Lindiwe Dlamini said the deadline has been extended to August 20 after only 27,188 registered. For the last parliamentary elections in 2008, more than 350,000 registered in the nation of about one million people.
"The decision to extend the registration period was mainly because the registration did not meet the targeted figures," the minister said, without revealing what the target was.
The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland as well as the opposition People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) -- both banned organisations -- have urged Swazis to boycott the elections in protest at King Mswati III's rule.
"We won't legitimise the system by attending any election organised under the prevailing undemocratic system," said Vincent Dlamini, the union's national organising secretary.
Political parties are banned under Swaziland's royal Tinkhundla system of government, in which candidates are chosen by local chiefs, seen as tightly controlled by the king.
People in effect then vote for individuals who have already been screened by the chiefs.
"Our stand is clear, we have never participated in Tinkhundla elections, we shall never do so even this year and next year," Pudemo spokesman Zakhele Mabuza said.
Protests have grown since last year in the traditionally peaceful kingdom, which is bordered on three sides by South Africa.
The country's problems are partly blamed on Mswati's extravagant lifestyle, supporting his 13 wives each in her own palace and high-flying international shopping trips, all paid for by state funds.