Syrians in government-controlled areas cast their ballots on Sunday in the first local elections there since 2011, when the country’s ill-fated uprising erupted against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Seven years since the last vote, the conflict has killed more than 360,000 people, forced millions more to flee, and left the economy in tatters. Now, Syrian troops are back in control of around two-thirds of the country after a string of victories, most recently around Damascus and in southern Syria. More than 6,550 voting centres opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) across government-held parts of the country, state media reported.
In a U-turn that might enter diplomatic annals as among the most bizarre, the United Nations’ special envoy on Syria Staffan di Mistura is forecasting an end of the war and the holding of elections there next year. In a BBC radio interview yesterday, di Mistura more than implied that the international community must now accept the prolongation of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and the holding of elections by what is left of his administration. Di Mistura’s new position is in sharp contrast with the analysis he offered last year when he explicitly ruled out “any possibility of holding elections under the present regime.”
Predictable issues have derailed ongoing negotiations over the Syrian conflict, with the opposition resuming fighting against the Syrian regime, which has repeatedly broken the cessation of hostilities agreement that was implemented in February. In addition to the continued Assad regime bombardment of forces ostensibly included in the ceasefire agreement, the primary issue that continues to sabotage the latest efforts to bring some semblance of calm to the war-torn country and resolution to the never-ending conflict, remains unchanged: fierce disagreement over the future of Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime. Sincere efforts to bring the conflict to an end, or carve out a path that will lead to such a reality, will continue to fail so long as they involve negotiating with parties that demand Assad remain in power. Such a proposal dismisses the fact that the Assad regime’s failure to step down years ago remains the chief reason why Syria has spiralled into hell and allowed barbaric actors, including ISIS, to flourish.
Syria: Elections held despite critics’ contention that they undermine peace talks | Los Angeles Times
Syrian television, the state news agency shows an anchor roaming a polling place as people shuffle toward ballot boxes, awkwardly avoiding eye contact. Some start dancing in the middle of the crowd, while off to the side a young girl recites a poem extolling the virtues of the homeland. “It is a duty upon every citizen to vote,” Inas Qaasem, a Damascus resident, told state television at a polling station. “They have the freedom to choose, that is the most important thing.” When asked how she had chosen her candidate, Qaasem smiled shyly and said “I don’t know. I didn’t read anything. I just saw that people were voting, and I decided to come and vote as well.” On Wednesday, 3,500 candidates vied for a place in Syria’s 250-seat parliament — though the result is not expected to be any different from that of previous elections, which have produced a quiescent parliament.
Syrians in government-controlled areas headed to polling stations Wednesday to elect a new 250-member parliament that is expected to serve as a rubber stamp for President Bashar al-Assad. Shortly after the stations opened at 7 a.m., people began turning up. Around 3,500 government-approved candidates are competing after more than 7,000 others dropped out. Parliament elections in Syria are held every four years, and Damascus says the vote is constitutional and separate from the peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the war. But the opposition says it contributes to an unfavourable climate for negotiations amid fierce fighting that threatens an increasingly tenuous cease-fire engineered by the United States and Russia.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced Monday that parliamentary elections are to be held on April 13, state news agency SANA reported, shortly after Washington and Moscow announced a ceasefire plan. Assad issued a decree which included seat allocations for each of the provinces in Syria, which last held parliamentary elections in May 2012. That was the first time that multiple parties — not just the ruling Baath party — were allowed to stand. Still, most of the 250 members of parliament that were elected for four-year terms were Baath members.
Syrian MP Sharif Shehadeh, a member of the ruling Baath party, said there will be no presidential vote before Mr Assad’s latest term ends in 2021.
He added that parliamentary elections are an internal Syrian affair and that it was still too early to hold them. His comments came a day after Russia circulated a document on ending Syria’s conflict that calls for drafting a new constitution in up to 18 months. The charter would be put to a popular referendum and followed by an early presidential election.
Russia, the United States and powers from Europe and the Middle East outlined a plan on Saturday for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, but differences remained on key issues such as President Bashar al-Assad’s fate. A day after gunmen and suicide bombers went on a rampage through Paris, killing at least 127 people, foreign ministers and senior officials from more than a dozen countries agreed to work for a ceasefire in Syria’s civil war, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it would not apply to Islamic State. French President Francois Hollande pledged a “merciless response” to the attacks, which he said had been organized by the Islamist militant force. France is part of the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the group in Syria and Iraq.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to early parliamentary elections and to share some power with his opponents, a concession that may facilitate a broader international coalition against Islamic State, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Russia would consider participating in the coalition and the Russian president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Putin told reporters in Vladivostok on Friday. Russia has been pushing for a wider campaign against Islamic State that would include Assad, something the U.S. and Europe have opposed. “There is a general understanding that joint efforts in the fight against terrorism should go hand by hand with the political process in Syria,” Putin said. Assad “agrees to this,” and has also agreed to early parliamentary elections and to include “healthy opposition” in the government, said Putin, a key ally of the Syrian president. Four Syrian lawmakers couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Syria concluded its first multi-candidate presidential election in about fifty years on 3 June. The result of the election was a foregone conclusion. The incumbent president, Bashar al-Assad, has won with an announced 88.7 percent of the vote, and has secured another seven-year term for himself as Syria’s leader. However, the significance of the election does not reside in its result, nor the supposed democratic era Assad supporters think it heralds. Instead, the election is significant because it confirms how secure the regime feels about itself and its strategy for confronting the insurgency. The election is not important because the government does not control large sections of the country and was unable to set up polling booths in rebel-held localities, some of which are just a few kilometres from Damascus. According to UN estimates, nearly half of the total Syrian population is displaced, with about two to three million residing outside of Syria as refugees. Given these factors, it is clear that the requisite conditions of peace and normalcy are palpably absent for the result of these elections to be taken as indicative of the country’s mood as a whole.
Government supporters stuffed ballot boxes and staged rallies inside polling stations in an election that President Bashar al-Assad is expected to use as a mandate to prosecute the civil war. Opponents of the regime inside and outside the country have dismissed the presidential election as a parody of democracy. As the voting proceeded on Tuesday, the nearly 40-month war continued without letup and the sky above Damascus was filled with the buzz of military aircraft carrying out bombing sorties against targets in rebel-held suburbs. The mood was a mixture of fear, intimidation and exuberance. The voting was held only in regime-controlled areas of the country. At polling stations in the capital Damascus and its suburbs, Assad supporters were seen casting handfuls of ballots for absent members of their families. At other stations, government workers arrived aboard buses and chanted adoring slogans before casting their votes for the 48-year-old president, who is locking in a third, seven-year term.
Tomorrow – after more than half a century – Syrians will go to the polls to cast a vote for the presidency. Allegedly, they will be able to choose freely between three candidates, including the current president, Bashar al-Assad. While there is little doubt that Assad will win, how has the election process been conducted and how have the challenging candidates tried to sway voters? Bashar al-Assad, 48 years old, has been in power for 14 years, succeeding his father, Hafez al-Assad who had firmly ruled Syria since 1970. The choice of Bashar was already preordained once his elder brother Bassil, initially groomed to take power, died in a car accident in 1994.
What an irony. Fear of the Syrian government and its many-tentacled security apparatus is even greater now than it was before the revolution began. Why should that be? The government is generously offering “reconciliation” deals across the country, with gracious amnesties like the one that enabled several hundred rebel fighters to leave the exhausted city of Homs with light weapons in early May. Yet anyone who knows Syria from the inside knows full well that the Assad regime’s generosity and grace is to be feared above all else.
On 3 June, Syrians will go to the polls to vote in presidential elections that are expected to see Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad clinch yet another term. With two seven-year terms already under his belt, the strongman, who has managed to remain in power in despite a three-year war with rebel groups, is sure to win a third victory in the widely criticised elections. With media, state, and security apparatuses working for Al-Assad’s win, the elections are viewed by many as sham, tainted with undemocratic electoral procedures and continued human rights violations. “The state is clearly biased towards Al-Assad,” says Syrian journalist Bassel Oudat, who argues that state institutions have thrown their weight and resources indiscriminately behind the ruler in lieu of his two opponents: former minister Hassan Al-Nouri and parliamentarian Maher Hajjar.
Syria: As Presidential Election Begins, Survivors of Chemical Attack Shun Vote In Disgust | International Business Times
The sounds Qusai Zakarya heard the morning of Aug. 21, 2013, in Moadimiyeh, Syria, near Damascus, were not what he was used to. The bombs, he said, sounded different — they didn’t buzz and crash in the same way they had in the slew of previous regime bombardments, and the people running for cover were holding their eyes, falling and vomiting. Those were signs that the international community and human rights organizations said were indicative of a chemical attack. Now, nearly a year later, the man behind the attack, President Bashar Assad, is standing for re-election in what’s widely seen as a sham. And Zakarya is in the U.S., working to prove to Western leaders that what he saw that day was real, and that Assad needs to be removed from power. Wednesday marked the first day Syrians living outside of the country could cast their ballot in the presidential election that no one expects Assad to lose. Tens of thousands voted, many of them at the Syrian Embassy in Beirut. According to Reuters, refugees said that pro-Assad Lebanese groups had mobilized them to go vote. Syrian state television said voting took place in 43 embassies.
Syrian President Bashar Assad declared his candidacy Monday for a new seven-year term in June presidential elections, more than three years into a revolt against his rule that has killed more than 150,000 people, uprooted another 9 million and touched off a humanitarian crisis. At least half of the 9.5 million people displaced by the Syrian civil war are children. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, says protecting them should be a priority for the international community. While Assad had long suggested he would seek re-election, the official announcement put to rest any illusions that the man who has led Syria since 2000 has any intention of relinquishing power or finding a political solution to the conflict. Rather, he appears emboldened by a series of military victories in recent months that have strengthened his once tenuous grip on power.
Holding an election in Syria while civil war rages will only obstruct international efforts to resolve the conflict, the head of the Arab League said on Tuesday. President Bashar al-Assad’s government announced on Monday that a presidential election would take place on June 3 – an event that is certain to extend his grip on power. “This step could suspend the desired efforts of maturing negotiations for a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” Nabil el-Araby, the head of the Cairo-based Arab League, said in a statement.
Syria will hold presidential elections on June 3, the country’s parliament speaker said Monday, a vote President Bashar al-Assad is likely to contest as his nation sinks deeper into a bloody civil war, now in its fourth year. Mr. Assad has been widely expected to seek another seven-year term in office despite the uprising against his rule. The conflict that has engulfed the nation since March 2011 has killed over 150,000 people and forced one-third of the country’s population from their homes. Parliament Speaker Mohammed Laham said candidates seeking to run for president can register their candidacy from next Tuesday, April 22 until May 1. “I call on the citizens of the Syrian Arab republic, inside and outside [the country] to exercise their right in electing a president,” Laham said from parliament in comments broadcast live on state-run television.
Syria’s opposition condemned Monday’s announcement of a June 3 presidential election expected to keep Bashar al-Assad in power despite tens of thousands of deaths in an anti-regime revolt since 2011. “The Assad regime’s announcement today that a ‘presidential election’ would be held in June should be treated as a farce and be rejected by the international community,” said the office of opposition National Coalition leader Ahmad Jarba. “With vast parts of Syria completely destroyed by Assad’s air force, army and militias over the last three years, and with a third of Syria’s population displaced internally or in refugee camps in the region, there is no electorate in Syria in a condition to exercise its right to vote,” it said.
Voter turnout in legislative elections in Syria stands at 51.26 percent, an official said on Tuesday, adding that 30 women had been elected to the 250-seat parliament. Announcing the results of the May 7 vote that was boycotted by opposition groups, Khalaf al-Azzawi, head of the electoral commission, said of 10,118,519 Syrians eligible to vote, a little over half had cast ballots.
The Syrian parliament, the People’s Assembly, appealed on Monday to President Bashar al-Assad to postpone parliamentary elections set for May 7, Syrian official SANA news agency said. The elections were announced under a new constitution passed last month. The Syrian opposition said the vote would be rigged and signaled that it would boycott the poll. “The Assembly appealed to the President of the Republic to consider delaying the elections so that the comprehensive reforms are consolidated, waiting for the outcome of the comprehensive national dialogue and empowering the licensed parties in light of the new parties law,” SANA said.
Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has issued a decree stating that parliamentary elections will be held on May 7, even as Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, awaited a response from Damascus on “concrete proposals” he put forward to end the conflict raging in the country. Assad’s move on Tuesday was part of a raft of reforms that he had unveiled to calm a year-long uprising against his rule. His reforms have, however, failed to quell the anti-government protests and not eased in any way the mounting pressure on him to quit. It was unclear whether parliamentary elections were also part of the six-point peace plan presented by Annan during his recent visit to the country.
Syria: Within Atmosphere of Democracy and Free Will, the Syrians Cast Their Votes to Elect Their Representatives at Local Administration Councils | SANA
Within an atmosphere of democracy and mass popular participation that reflected the Syrian citizens’ commitment to practice their electoral right with a free will to elect whom they see more fit and qualified to represent them at Local Administration Councils, the Syrians cast their votes to select their representatives who competed for 17588 seats in different Syria cities.
Judge Nazir Kheir Allah, Head of the Elections’ Sub-Committee in Damascus said in a statement to SANA that the voting process was run within an atmosphere of democracy and transparency, adding “The committee is permanently sitting at the Palace Justice till the final announcement of the results.” He underlined that the electoral process has been run successfully without any breaches, saying that the Committee has provided all facilitations needed to make the election process a success.
Syria: Syrians vote for municipal elections, violence buildup in violence-hit areas | English.news.cn
Syrians on Monday headed to about 14,500 ballot boxes nationwide to take part in the municipal elections for the country’s 14 governorates, a move that is considered as a showcase of Syria’s new democracy at a time when the unabated violence in some flash points scores new victims.
The elections, held every four years, come at a time when Syria is facing unparalleled internal and external pressures and is struggling to hunt down what it called terrorist gangs messing with its security and stability and carrying out foreign agenda to spark chaos and instability in the country. According to official statistics, 42,889 candidates were competing for 17,588 council seats, as some 14,500 ballot boxes have been distributed over 7,500 electoral center across Syria.
Minister of Local Administration Omar Ghalawanji urged Syrians to vote and practice their “constitutional right in choosing their representatives at the local administration council.” “The Syrian people are showing a determination to complete the construction of democratic life that is no longer a mere slogan but rather a genuine practice cherished throughout the past years,” state-run SANA news agency quoted Ghalawanji as saying.
The Higher Elections Committee discussed on Sunday the candidacy process set to start on December 12, and the measures taken to guarantee honest, democratic elections according to the elections law issued by legislative decree No. 101 for 2011. The committee decided to direct the sub-committees in the Syrian provinces to fully supervise candidacy applications, stressing the implementation of article No. 20 of the elections law which grants the right to run for the People’s Assembly and the local councils according to the standards provided by the new elections law.
The committee requested that the sub-committees should cooperate and coordinate with demonstrative apparatuses according to law to offer all facilitations for supervision to guarantee democratic and honest elections. The Higher Committee also requested that authorities set up electronic screens in the squares of all provinces to display the counting of votes to preserve the transparency and honesty of elections.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday that he expected to have parliamentary elections conducted in February of 2012 in an interview broadcast by state TV. The solution to the five-month-old crisis in the country is ” political,” al-Assad said, adding that the security situation is better now.
Syria is passing through a transitional stage and there will be a revision of the constitution, he said. He pledged that whoever has committed any crime against any Syrian citizen, whether he was civilian or military, would be held accountable when he is proven to be guilty.