This week Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won a new seven-year term with nearly 90 percent of the vote. The elections were only held in the areas that are controlled by the government which are mostly in the north-west of the country, centred around the city of Hama and Damascus. Tens of thousands took to the streets in government-held areas even before the results were announced on 4 June, waving portraits of Assad and the official Syrian flag. The EU has condemned the elections saying that they are “illegitimate and undermine the political efforts to find a solution to this horrific conflict.” They noted people in rebel-held areas could not vote and that state media promoted the incumbent Bashar al-Assad.
On 2 June a Palestinian unity government, containing Fatah and Hamas, has been sworn in. According to media this event marks a “key step towards ending a major rift between factions in the West Bank and Gaza.”
Armed forces stormed the Libyan parliament, the General National Congress (GNC) on 18 May, and demanded its suspension. Officials said the attackers killed two and wounded 55 people, while keeping at least 20 people hostage. The identity of the chaotic attackers was unclear, but loyalists of renegade general Khalifa Hafter claimed responsibility. By attacking the GNC, the gunmen directly challenged the legitimacy of the country’s central government which already struggles to gain authority over the country.
On Tuesday 13 May the Secretary-General of the United Nation, Ban Ki-moon, announced that the Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will step down by the end of May. Brahimi expressed his regret for his inability to forge an international response to the violence in Syria. The 80-year-old Brahimi threatened to resign almost from the start of his mission in 2012. He succeeded Kofi Annan, who quit after six months and slammed the UN Security Council for failing to unite behind his efforts.
A criminal court in the south of Egypt has sentenced 37 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death and recommended the death sentence for 682 others. Amongst the convicted is Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide, Mohamed Badie. Critics claim the mass sentencing is part of a crackdown on the movement that could trigger protests and political violence ahead of the presidential elections next month.
On Wednesday 23 April, a meeting of Palestinian leaders resulted in a reconciliation pact between the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas. Both groups agreed to form a national government under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The US and Israel fear the new-found unity might derail the peace process.
Today, Wednesday 23 April, the Lebanese parliament failed to elect a new president. Lawmakers had to elect a successor for President Michel Suleiman, whose six-year term ends on 25 May. Political turmoil and social unrest have divided the country, making it very difficult to reach agreement on a suitable presidential candidate.
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.
The Arab Summit took place on 25 and 26 march in Kuwait, where 22 members attended.
Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development party (AK-party) gained a substantial victory in the Turkish nationwide local elections on Sunday 30 March. Embattled Premier Erdogan has been accused of authoritarianism and corruption after a string of scandals. The local elections have become an unofficial referendum on Erdogan’s government.