Swaziland was a constitutional monarchy until King Sobhuza II repealed the constitution in 1973 and assumed absolute power. The king then ruled the country as king-in-council, on the advice of his former cabinet and two traditional Swazi councils, one consisting of all the chiefs and other notables, the other of the king, the queen mother, and (in theory) all adult males.
A new constitution was promulgated in 1978. In 1979, a new parliament was created with a House of Assembly consisting of 50 members, 40 of whom were chosen by indirect election and 10 appointed by the crown; the 20-member Senate had 10 members chosen by indirect election and 10 appointed by the crown. To become law, legislation passed by parliament must be approved by the crown. The cabinet is presided over by a prime minister appointed by the crown from among the members of parliament.
In response to popular moves calling for reform, King Mswati III appointed several commissions to review the tinkhundla (local government) system. In July 1992, the second Tinkhundla Review Commission (popularly called Vusela II) reported to the king. Government accepted its main recommendations—increase tinkhundla centers, allow direct representation in parliament, and institute a secret ballot. Opposition parties complained that Vusela II did not consult a broad range of Swazis and that the reforms did not address the issue of the legality of political parties. The king followed the Vusela II recommendations, rejected the creation of a multiparty system and, on 21 August 1993, the electoral process got started with nomination of candidates. On 25 September primary elections selected three candidates for each district. In October, in runoff elections, voters chose 55 members for the House of Assembly. The king appointed 10 more. A 30-member Senate was chosen, with 10 members elected by the House of Assembly and 20 appointed by the king.
After many postponements, new elections were held in 1998, with the next elections scheduled for 2003. Amidst tight military and police security Swazis went to the polls on 24 October 1998 in parliamentary elections. Over 85,000 people voted, which is an estimated 40% of the voting population. During the voting, harassment by the authorities of anti-electoral groups like the Peoples United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) and the Swaziland Youth Congress (Swayoco), which were encouraging a boycott because they believed the elections would be rigged, was widespread. Apart from the 53 elected MPs, the king selects 10 MPs for the House of Assembly and 20 Senators for the House of Senate, and 10 cabinet ministers. The King also reappointed Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini to head the new government following the 1998 general elections.