Syrian electoral colleges opened their doors this Wednesday for elections in which President Bashar al Assad is running after eliminating opposition candidates in a country devastated by more than a decade of war and with no rivals before him.
The presidential election will be the first since 2014, when Al Assad was re-elected due to the lack of non-palliative rivals, although his position on the ground was very different from the current one among the various armed groups in the country due to the progress made in 2014.
In this vote, Al Assad won with more than 92 percent of the vote, even though the elections were not held in the vast areas under the control of the rebels. The opposition also called for a boycott, while the United States, the European Union (EU) and the Cooperation Council for the Arab Gulf States (GCC) rejected their legitimacy.
Since then, the situation on the ground has changed significantly, particularly as a result of Russia’s military intervention in 2015 in support of Damascus, which allowed government forces to gain ground and avert the threat of the president being overthrown by weapons.
On this occasion, Al Assad will face Abdullah Salum Abdullah of the Socialist Unionist Party (SUP) and Mahmoud Ahmad Marai of the Democratic Arab Socialist Union (DASU), one of the opposition parties tolerated by the Syrian authorities, in the elections.
The president, who carried out his campaign under the motto “Hope through Work”, has defended that holding these elections shows that democracy exists in the country, despite the campaign of repression against opponents and the elimination of the candidacies of its main characters.
The country also has a filter system, which means that only three of the 51 applications submitted were accepted. There are seven women among the candidates who have dropped out, so Syria will still have no candidates for the presidency.
These obstacles include support in parliament, which is controlled by Al Assad’s Baath, as well as the demand to have lived for the past decade in a country marked by war and eliminating all opponents who have fled from oppression People in exile are authorities and the conflict.
Al Assad recently approved an amnesty for nearly 400 officials, journalists and lawyers arrested as part of a campaign against freedom of expression on social networks, despite dozens of people still detained or reported missing on the country’s prison network.
In addition, the elections will not be held in areas not under the control of the army, mainly in Idlib province (northwest), in the hands of a number of rebel groups – including Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) from – and northeast Syria , under the control of the Kurdish Autonomous Administration.
In this regard, the Kurdish authorities have refused to vote in these areas of Rojava – Syrian Kurdistan – because they are conducting their own political processes despite having authorized them to take place in areas under the control of the security forces in that area.
In this way, the elections take place in a context in which the front has stabilized in three spheres of influence and at a time when, according to the United Nations, almost half of the population is being displaced at home or abroad.
Even so, Al Assad has presented himself as the only candidate qualified to run the country and has promised to work to improve the economic situation hit by the war and crisis and to start various reconstruction projects.
The fall of the Syrian pound in early 2020, amid the tightening of sanctions by the United States with the so-called “Caesar Law” and the economic collapse in Lebanon, has caused a drastic deterioration in the situation of the government-controlled areas.
The National Coalition for the Forces of the Opposition and the Syrian Revolution (CNFORS) – the main opposition coalition abroad – has for its part defended that the elections are “a sham” and influenced that “the Al Assad regime has lost its legitimacy” Adopt a military solution to the people’s revolution. “
The organization’s president, Nasr al Hariri, has announced that CNFORS has sent letters to 75 countries expressing its opposition to the elections, claiming that holding the elections “is a blow to the political process and the justified international Path in international resolutions, in particular Security Council (United Nations) 2218 in 2013 and 2254 in 20145.
It was also denounced that Damascus “uses all methods of repression, including arrest, torture, displacement, rape, enforced disappearance, murder and destruction of the country” before highlighting that “the criminal regime was shown to have committed crimes against humanity hat and war crimes using brutal methods, including the use of chemical weapons. “
Al Hariri has pointed to “the lack of a safe and neutral environment for free, fair and transparent elections” and added that “the process is under the control of the regime’s security and intelligence services and the outcome is known”. is prepared by the illegal constitution of 2012 “.
Because of this, he accused Damascus of “postponing” the peace talks in Geneva, denouncing that “it is clear that the regime is struggling to legitimize its existence, which allows it to stay with its support. ” in power. and break off the negotiation path. “
The President of CNFORS has therefore referred to the discussion process begun in 2019, which is intended to pave the way for political reforms and the holding of free and fair elections under the supervision of the United Nations in Syria draft of a new Charter Magna or amendment of the 2012s.
In this context, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, recalled in early May that “the elections were held under the auspices of the current constitution and are not part of the political process established by resolution 2254” – “The UN is not on participated in these elections and has no mandate to do so, “he said.
Pedersen also stressed “the importance of a negotiated political solution”, adding that the elections foreseen in the international “roadmap” provide for “free and fair elections in accordance with the new constitution”, under the supervision of the United Nations with the higher international Standards implemented transparency and accountability to which all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, can participate. “
The United States joined in the criticism, saying that the elections “will not be free, fair or representative”. “The failure to implement a new constitution is evidence that the so-called elections will be a sham,” said United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Despite all this, Al Assad trusts that Russia and Iran, his main supporters, can maintain their support and thus remain in power, which he has held since he succeeded his father Hafez al Assad in 2000 after his death after the occupation the presidency since 1971 in a “monarchical” transfer of power.