The last absolute monarchy in Africa, the Kingdom of Eswatini, will hold parliamentary elections on Friday, with political parties banned from contesting.

The constitution emphasises “individual merit” as the basis for selecting lawmakers, who cannot be affiliated with any political group. Being in the good graces of King Mswati III, who wields absolute power, also carries much weight.

About 585,000 registered voters will be called to choose 59 members of the lower house of parliament, which plays only an advisory role to the monarch. Mswati, who can veto any legislation, will directly appoint another 10 lawmakers.

With most candidates loyal to the king, the election is unlikely to change the political scenery in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.

Only about a dozen of those nominated during primaries last month are known to have ties to the opposition. Many do not say which side they are on, fearing repression.

“Democracy is not that much practised around here,” Thantaza Silolo, spokesperson for the largest opposition group, the Swaziland Liberation Movement (Swalimo), told AFP.

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