By Nokunceda Magagula
Elections observers, the Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) says the Primary elections which were held on Saturday were free and fair as they were run according to the laws of Eswatini.
After the primary elections, a preliminary report was produced by CANGO after observing the elections in 60 polling stations around the country. The report states that the election observers concluded that fairness reigned as throughout the country as election laws were adhered to by the Election Boundaries Commission (EBC).
The report added that the staff deployed by EBC in the different polling stations showed utmost professionalism and were able to face and deal with the challenges they faced, which resulted in no major accidents that would have altered the results of the elections. In the report the organisation also commended EBC for being able to increase the election visibility, stating that there was ease in identifying EBC officials since they had visible tags and branded apparel.
Moreover, the signage within the polling station also made it easy for voters to identify positions occupied by nominees, agents, and observers. The report also lauded the visibility of security personnel. However, areas that had political activists standing for nomination and those with higher crime rates had more security personnel than other polling stations, places like Siphofaneni, Ngwemphisi, and Manzini.
The report states that only one complaint was brought to them, which came from former Lubulini member of Parliament Timothy Myeni. Myeni complained that he was told by EBC that during the nomination stage, he could not vote for Lubulini. Myeni challenged the decision in the High Court of Eswatini but his appeal was declined. The report states that CANGO is still monitoring that issue.
In terms of women’s participation, the report states that few women went through the secondary stage of elections. However, notes that in the early stages of elections, there was a programme advocating for women’s election into the office which indeed resulted in a huge turnover as several women were seen contesting for Bucopho, Indvuna Yenkhundla, and being members of Parliament.
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The preliminary report recommends that EBC should put up comprehensive contingency plans to anticipate issues like electricity blackouts, and telecommunication network outages and should include sufficient lighting for the evenings when voting closes.
The report added that civic education campaigns must be held continuously to train the public on the electoral laws of Eswatini.
Also, the environment of polling stations must be accommodative to people living with disabilities. In an interview Executive Director of CANGO Thembinkhosi Dlamini added to the report and stated that the EBC should consider allowing candidates to do campaigns before primary elections so voters can be familiar with the candidates to recognize them in the ballot papers.