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.
After a quick amendment to the Syrian constitution due to the fact that he was under the legal age for the position, Assad over time garnered the support of many within the political, military, and security apparatus to limit any opposition to his rule.
The eruption of the Syrian uprising in the early months of 2011 is arguably the biggest challenge the young president has ever faced.
For Assad, the uprising was mainly portrayed as part of a larger conspiracy guided by the country’s enemies to forcefully change its political alliances, and a war against religiously fundamentalist militants that emerged as the uprising transformed into a civil war.
On August 2011, Assad signed decree 101, which amended the General Elections Law, as part of what the regime claimed were reform efforts to placate the early demands expressed during the uprising’s early stages.