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.
Articles about voting issues in the Syrian Arab Republic.
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.