Syrian presidential elections “parody of democracy"

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad term ends on 17 July, which means elections need to be held. On 21 April the date has been set: 3 June. Assad is expected to run again to win another seven-year term in office.

Western and Gulf Arab countries who support Assad’s opponents are not impressed by the elections, what they see as a “parody of democracy”. These countries further said they would wreck efforts to negotiate a peace settlement.

Currently Syria faces a civil war that has killed more than 150.000 people since March 2011, monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated. The conflict has also displaced nearly half of the population.

Presidential elections
A day after the date of 3 June has been set, the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) chairman Adnan Zraiq announced they are ready to receive applications from candidates. Candidates can register until 1 May. On 28 May Syrians who live abroad can already vote for the presidential election.

For the upcoming campaign new election rules have been established. The most important one is the requirement that candidates need to have lived in Syria for the last decade. According to critics, this is to prevent prominent opposition figures who live in exile to run the elections.

The government has not (yet) come with a plan how to hold elections under the current circumstances. In a lot of unstable areas it is unlikely that voting will be held. Further, it is unclear how the six million people who have fled their homes can register.

Syrian civil war
Last week Assad said the civil war “is turning in the government’s favour.” According to him “the state is trying to restore security and stability in the main areas that the terrorists have struck.” Currently Assad sees a turning point in their achievements. According to the Guardian this has also to do with the role of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, who sent thousands of fighter into Syria to help Assad.

According to Monzer Akbik, member of the Western-backed National Coalition opposition group, the election is “a sign that Assed is unwilling to seek a political solution to the conflict.” It is not clear yet who will be Assad opponent, but we should not take this serious, Akbik said.

Further, opposition activist Ahmed Alqusair argued that Assad is “holding elections over the blood of Syrians”. He expects that only supporters of Assad will vote: “If we are being blockade from even eating bread, how can we vote?”

Next to the political aspect, an “economic war” is taking place as well. According to Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi this “fierce economic war is being waged against the national economy aimed at destabilising the Syrian pound.”

International reactions
The international community is not pleased with the upcoming presidential elections. The EU reiterated their stance: a vote conducted in the midst of conflict “would be a parody of democracy, have no credibility whatsoever, and undermine efforts to reach a political solution.” According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon the elections are “incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva communique.”

Last February talks in Geneva with delegates of both sides, backed by the UN, collapsed. US State Department Spokeswomen Jen Psaki says “the Syrian regime under the Assads have never held a credible, free and fair election and has taken legal and administrative steps to ensure that this vote will not be fair.” Calling for the election is very hollow because “the regime continues to massacre the very electorate it purports to represent”, Psaki added.

Currently the fighting continues and the weekly dead toll regularly exceeds 1000. This will only change when all parties come to a solution together, regardless of whether there will be held presidential elections.

By Laura Ritter

Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters, Sana, The Guardian

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