PUDEMO follow Danish municipal elections

By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact and Red-Green Alliance

"I am surprised that Danish political parties are always looking for consensus. The ownership and respect for the process by the Danish people shows - why can't we learn from that. We come from the old British political system where we are always contesting." The President of Swaziland's largest political party, the People's United Democratic Movement, Mario Masuku, is speaking from a polling station in Gladsaxe, a suburb of Denmark's capital, Copenhagen.

Wonder inspects counting of ballotsTogether with PUDEMO's Organising Secretary, Wonder Mkhonta, he visited Denmark this week to follow the municipal elections. The two Swazis were invited by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy and the Danish political party the Red-Green Alliance.

They come from Swaziland, a corrupt and poverty-stricken absolute monarchy, where King Mswati III rules with an iron-fist, and where everyone who questions his rule is deemed to be a terrorist. Something that Masuku and Mkhonta have personally experienced on several occasions, where they have been harassed and brutalised by police or locked up for as long as a year on spurious charges of terrorism or possession of political pamphlets, only to be released after farcical court sessions.

During their stay Masuku and Mkhonta met with several Danish politicians, including Copenhagen deputy Mayor for Social Issues Mikkel Warming, Gladsaxe Mayor Karin Søjberg Holst, and Danish MP for the Red Green Alliance Nikolaj Villumsen, and followed the election process from the opening of the polls to the counting of ballots.

And the two Swazis were impressed with what they saw. "The life of the Danish people is rooted at the local political level, says Masuku. "The elections are well-organised, transparent, accountable, without animosity towards other people's parties, and there is no corruption or very little, because all the political parties are committed to working together."

"In Swaziland, on the other hand, the local authorities do not have the capacity to implement their own policies because the king is in control of everything," he continues. "It is impossible to implement anything even at the local level."

Mario with Mayor of Gladsaxe municipality Karin Holst	But as Masuku discussed with the Danish politicians, transplanting a democratic system and tradition from one country, such as Denmark, to another, such as Swaziland, is not a straightforward process. "The problem of comparing Denmark and Swaziland is that Denmark is a democracy and Swaziland is a dictatorship. We cannot copy-paste all from the Danish system," he insisted.

"One of the things that have made the Danish system and political environment strong is the social welfare system," Mario Masuku concludes. "The people in Denmark believe in this system they live it, and it is part and parcel of Denmark. I believe we need something like this in Swaziland." 


Skrevet 22 November 2013 

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