Did you know that King Mswati of Swaziland is Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch? In the national elections scheduled for 2013, Mswati plans to uphold the ban on political parties. According to this news story, that “flies in the face of international opinion,” but when I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mswati is even bothering to hold these pseudo-elections. What does he hope to gain from this?
Ghandi and Lust-Okar (2009) survey the political literature on why authoritarian leaders hold elections. While many argue that it is to satisfy the international community, it can also be used to spread the spoils of office, or as a signal the potential opposition supporters that resistance is futile. I wonder what Mswati’s reasoning is?
This reminds me of another paper – Hafner-Burton, Hyde, and Jablonski (2011). Their paper focuses specifically on human rights violations surrounding elections – arguing that leaders engage in violence when they feel threatened.
It is likely that the complete lack of political parties participating in next year’s election will limit how threatened Mswati feels, but I wonder if the extensive protests and call for reforms that Swaziland has experienced since the 2008 elections could potentially lead to Mswati feeling the need to engage in some decidedly un-kingly behavior.