June 14, 2008

King ends parliament ahead of polls

Swaziland's parliament will be sent home at the end of June ahead of elections, King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, has announced. "As we all know that it is now time for elections, today I also want to let you know that the current Parliament will go home at the end of the month," he told thousands of people at a meeting at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence, near capital Mbabane.
Political parties are currently banned from participating in elections under a 1973 royal decree. The king keeps tight control over the legislature, naming the country's prime minister and cabinet. But there are growing calls for the monarchy to introduce democratic reforms in the landlocked mountain kingdom, which is plagued by food shortages and one of the world's highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in 2007 to demand the establishment of a multi-party system. (rts)

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