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Swaziland Modern History

Ever since Swaziland gained independence from colonial power Britain in 1968, the country's history has been characterized by fierce contradictions between royalist traditionalists and groups that want to democratize the kingdom. After the Democratic hangings gained some success in a 1973 election, the king dissolved the parliament and introduced a party ban. Since King Mswati III was crowned in 1986, opposition to the absolute monarchy has grown in strength.

During the first half of the 20th century, the area of ​​today's Swaziland was a British protectorate, but the royal dynasty Dlamini was allowed to remain on the throne. The Swazis' liberation from the British took off seriously in 1962 when the radical Labor Party Ngwanese National Liberation Congress (NNLC) was formed. The NNLC sought to make the area a constitutional monarchy. The Swazi king Sobhuza II responded by forming a royal and traditionalist party, the Imbokodvo National Movement ( INM).

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Swaziland. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

In preparation for Swaziland independence in 1968, a parliamentary election was held. The electoral system was designed so that almost all seats in Parliament went to the INM. It was the start of decades of contradictions between royalist traditionalists and groups that want to democratize the country - contradictions that characterize the country's politics even today.

In the 1973 election, the NNLC won three seats in parliament, causing the king to dissolve the assembly and ban all parties. Instead, a system was introduced where traditional chiefs (tinkhundla) ruled locally, while the king retained supreme power.

Contemporary History of SwazilandThe democracy movement is growing in strength

After the death of King Sobhuza II in 1982, a protracted power struggle broke out within the royal family. It ended in 1986 when the young king Mswati III was crowned. The new king was also unwilling to let go of power. The ban on political parties persisted, but at the same time the opposition grew. Several organizations were formed that essentially served as political parties. Most important was the People's United Democracy Movement (Pudemo) and its youth association Swayoco. A strong force within the opposition was also the trade union central organization SFTU, which had a close connection with its South African counterpart Cosatu.

As a remission of the democracy movement in 1987, the king arranged elections to appoint a group of people who would in turn appoint members to the lower house of parliament (the National Assembly). This gave local councils great influence over the composition of Parliament. The turnout was low. Pudemo demanded that all MPs be elected in general and direct elections.

The following years were marked by recurring strikes and demonstrations. The protests were turned down by the police, but criticism of the king and the undemocratic system increased. In 1992, the King decided to increase the seats of the National Assembly to 65, of which 55 would be elected in general direct elections. However, the candidates would be nominated by the local councils. The opposition was dissatisfied and adhered to the demands of multi-party systems and democracy. The king then dissolved the National Assembly and declared that he alone would rule the country through decrees.

New constitution

In 1993, elections to the National Assembly were still held under the new system, but participation was low. Violent protests erupted and unions announced strikes. The king eventually appointed a council to formulate a proposal for a new constitution, but the council was dominated by kingly rulers. This led to a new wave of protest.

In the 1998 National Assembly elections, participation was again low. The opposition merged into the Alliance's Swaziland Democratic Alliance (SDA), whose demonstrations were turned down by police. In 2001, the King introduced a state of emergency to quell dissatisfaction.

In the years 2002 and 2003, Swaziland was severely affected by malnutrition and nearly half a million people lacked food. Several donors withdrew their promises of relief when it became known that King Mswati III had ordered a luxury private jet in the midst of the crisis.

Growing demands for democracy from the outside world and domestic opinion led to the country in 2006 adopting a new constitution which to some extent emphasizes the civil liberties and rights. In practice, however, the Constitution has not entailed any significant changes in the political system (see Political system).

2007

November

Constitutional criticism is rejected

The Supreme Court rejects the criticism leveled by the opposition to a proposal for a new constitution.

July

Great demonstrations against the monarchy

Thousands of people are demonstrating in the country's largest city of Manzini in protest of the absolute monarchy and demanding democracy.

May

April

Protest actions for democracy

On the anniversary of the introduction of absolute monarchy in 1973, protest actions for democracy are held. Pudemo supporters are trying to block border crossings into South Africa. Six of them are indicted for manslaughter.

 
 

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