A woman casts her vote inside a polling station in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday. Omar Sanadiki/Reuters
Syrians voted on Sunday to elect a new parliament as the Damascus government grapples with international sanctions and a crumbling economy after retaking large parts of the war-torn country.
More than 7,400 polling stations opened across government-held parts of Syria, including for the first time in former opposition strongholds, the electoral commission said.
President Bashar Al Assad's Baath party and its allies are expected to take most of parliament's 250 seats in the third such polls to be held since the war started nine years ago.
On the eve of the polls, one person was killed and another wounded in two blasts in Damascus, state news agency SANA said.
A man wearing a face mask casts his vote inside a polling station in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday. Reuters
Several lists were allowed to run across the country but any real opposition is absent, and the ruling Baath party is expected to retain its hegemony.
Portraits of the contenders have been displayed across the capital for weeks, with the 1,658 candidates including several prominent businessmen.
The elections, twice postponed from April due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, come at a time when most Syrians are worried about the soaring cost of living.
Many candidates are running on programmes pledging to tackle inflation and improve infrastructure ravaged by the conflict.
A Syrian policeman walks past ballot boxes in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Saturday. AFP
"Lawmakers are going to have to make exceptional efforts to improve services," said Umaya, a 31-year-old woman who works in a dentist's practice.
Millions of Syrians living abroad, after fleeing a war that has killed more than 380,000 people, are not eligible to vote.
But for the first time, voting will take place in territory retaken by the government, including in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus and in the south of Idlib province in the country's northwest.
After a string of military victories backed by key ally Russia, the government is back in control of around 70 percent of the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
In the last polls in 2016, turnout stood at 57 percent.
International donors are gathering in Brussels hoping to drum up $9 billion to help Syrians uprooted by the country's bloody civil war, as European countries warn the money must not prop up President Bashar Al Assad.
Fighters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces raised their yellow flag in Baghouz, the remote riverside village where diehard militants of a variety of nationalities made a desperate, dramatic last stand.
The biggest UN humanitarian convoy yet to operate inside Syria has successfully distributed aid to 40,000 desperate people in a hard-to-access desert camp near the country’s southern border with Jordan, the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced on Friday.
This came in a phone call Sheikh Mohamed received on Wednesday from the Syrian president where they also discussed the ongoing developments in Syria and the Middle East in addition to issues of regional and international interest.
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