Syrians vote in election certain to give Assad new mandate - GulfToday

Syrians vote in election certain to give Assad new mandate


A Syrian woman casts her vote at a polling station in Aleppo on Wednesday. AFP

Syrians in government-held areas of the war-torn country headed to polling stations early on Wednesday to vote in a presidential election set to give President Bashar Assad a fourth seven-year term.

The vote is the second presidential election since the country's conflict began 10 years ago. Two other candidates are running for the country's top post, which has been held by members of the Assad family for five decades.

They are little known figures, Abdullah Salloum Abdullah and Mahmoud Ahmad Marie.


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Starting at 7am, thousands began arriving at polling stations in Damascus, where streets have been decorated with giant posters of Assad and banners praising his rule. Few posters of the two other candidates appeared in the streets.

"We choose the future. We choose Bashar Assad,” read one of many banners raised in the capital Damascus.

Syria-election-main1-750An election official closes a ballot box at a polling station in Aleppo on Wednesday. AFP

No vote will be held in northeast Syria, which is controlled by US-backed Kurdish-led fighters, or in the northwestern province of Idlib that is the last major rebel stronghold in the country.

Still, in some parts of government-held areas, including the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, many have rejected the vote calling it "illegitimate.”

The Syrian Democratic Council that runs daily affairs in northeast Syria said in a statement it will not take part in the vote "before political solutions in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, release of detainees, return of displaced and putting the basis for a political structure far away from tyranny.”

Syrians waving national flags outside a polling station in the capital Damascus as voting began on Wednesday. AFP

On Sunday, Prime Minister Hussein Arnous travelled to Sweida along with a dozen Cabinet ministers in the first such visit in years to meet local officials. There has reportedly been widespread anger against the vote and overspending on pro-Assad campaigns in the city at a time when much of the region’s population lives in poverty.

The vote this year comes as Syria’s economy is in free fall as a result of Western sanctions, government corruption and infighting, the coronavirus and the financial crisis in Lebanon, Syria’s main link with the outside world.

Some of the voters waiting at polling stations were putting on face masks. Over the past three months, intensive care units in public hospitals in Damascus reached full capacity due to a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, leading doctors to transfer patients to hospitals in other provinces. In March, Assad and his wife, Asma, tested positive for the virus.

Associated Press

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