Voters in the feudal African kingdom of Swaziland began casting ballots for a new parliament.
But the election was dismissed by critics as a phoney rubber stamp for absolute rule by King Mswati III.
The Pudemo party, the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) and the South Africa-based Swaziland Solidarity Network have called for a boycott of the poll.
Swaziland is one of the world's poorest countries, though its monarch is worth around £125 million.
Around 70 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and 31 per cent of adults have HIV or Aids.
Social upheaval is uncommon since police have crushed any peaceful protests in past years.
Two weeks ago they broke up a fact-finding mission of international trade unionists after detaining delegation members.
Meanwhile, CPS deputy general secretary Musa Dube faced charges of sedition after being arrested campaigning for an election boycott.
The CPS has demanded his immediate release and urged progressive organisations to condemn his arrest.
It is especially concerned for Mr Dube because of the chance that he will be killed in custody.
"Sedition is the term Mswati uses to describe pro-democracy work," said CPS general secretary Kenneth Kunene.
"Our comrade was conducting campaign work to promote the message that the elections in Swaziland should be free and fair.
"Mswati's elections are the exact opposite.
"They are merely a way of selecting who will serve him best."
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