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King dissolves Swazi parliament ahead of vote

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Africa's last absolute monarch, Swaziland's King Mswati III, pictured on August 17, 2012, on Friday dissolved parliament in the run-up to new legislative polls in September which critics have branded a sham. (AFP/File)

Africa's last absolute monarch, Swaziland's King Mswati III, on Friday dissolved parliament in the run-up to new legislative polls in September which critics have branded a sham.

"Today parliament is dissolved to allow the nation tomorrow to nominate candidates who will contest elections where eventual winners will be legislators," Mswati told subjects gathered at his royal palace in Ludzidzini, north of the capital Mbabane.

Around 600,000 of the tiny mountain kingdom's 1.1 million people are expected to vote in the polls on September 20.

Potential lawmakers are nominated from local regions to run in the polls.

The king directly appoints regional leaders.

He will rule the country with the Council of Ministers until a new assembly is constituted.

But opposition groups have rubbished the polls as undemocratic.

Swaziland banned political parties in 1973 and at least three activists were arrested and charged with sedition early this year during protests against the king's rule.