As before, thoroughly controlled elections were held in Syria on May 26, with completely predictable results. Regime officials have declared Bashar al-Assad the winner with 95.1% of the vote. This is even higher than the 88.7% claimed by Assad in 2014, Syria’s first presidential ballot since his father Hafez died in 2000 (who had held even more thoroughly controlled elections only rarely after taking power in a 1970 coup d’etat). Assad ran against two nominal challengers, with another 49 candidates disqualified. State TV and official news agency SANA promoted Assad relentlessly; his posters were displayed on walls and billboards throughout regime-controlled territory.
Several million Syrians within the country could not vote as they are outside regime-held areas. In opposition-held Idlib province, hundreds held protests against the “fake” elections, carrying the Free Syria flag.
The big majority of the 5.6 million Syrian refugees outside the country’s borders also did not participate. Only in Lebanon did local pro-Assad organizations, such as the Association of Syrian Workers in Lebanon, attempt to mobilize Syrian nationals to vote, chartering buses to bring them to Damascus’ embassy in Beirut to cast ballots for the dictator. (EA Worldview, Al Jazeera, The New Arab)
In another sign of resurgent opposition even within regime-controlled territory, a group of leading tribal and social figures in Daraa governorate (where the revolution first broke out a decade ago) released a statement declaring their rejection of the elections as “illegitimate.” (Daily Sabah)
The elections come amid deepening economic agony throughout Syria. In Turkey, Abdurrahman Mustafa, head of the exiled Syrian Interim Government, stated that Syria’s economic woes are not caused by sanctions but are due to the Assad regime turning resources over to its allies Russia and Iran in exchange for military protection. (Daily Sabah)
Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR