War-ravaged Syria Is About to Hold Presidential Elections!

Jwan Dibo
Jwan Dibo

On Sunday 18th, the head of the Syrian People’s Assembly, Hamouda Al-Sabbagh, announced that the presidential elections in Syria will be held on 26 May. Candidates must get the backing of 35 members of the parliament which is dominated by Assad’s Baath Party.

These elections will be held in accordance with the 2012 constitution which states that nominees must have lived in Syria continuously for the last 10 years. This condition would prevent any opposition figures in exile from running.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council last month that “These elections will neither be free nor fair. They will not legitimize the Assad regime”. Other Western governments have expressed the same attitude when they clearly denounced the move describing it as a ludicrous charade.

The Syrian political and military opposition affiliated with Turkey and funded by Qatar condemned the move. “Assad’s regime announcement of the play of elections that will be supervised by the security apparatuses confirms the misery of this regime and its separation from the reality of the Syrian people”, ‘the chief of ‘National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces’ based in Istanbul, Naser al-Hariri, wrote on Tweeter.

The political head of ‘Firka Muattasim’, Mustafa Sejari, an armed faction officially financed by Qatar and backed by Turkey said that “We consider Assad’s parliament to have no legitimacy. This is a theatrical farce and a desperate effort to reinvent this criminal regime”.

Irrespective of the denunciation of US, EU, and the Syrian opposition affiliated with Turkey and Qatar, the decision to hold these elections reflects the expectation of more evils that await Syria in the coming time. Undoubtedly, the results of these absurd elections are known in advance and they will lead to a foregone conclusion which is the winning of Bashar al-Assad another seven-years term.

Conducting these elections in light of the difficult circumstances afflicting Syria, and in this tyrannical manner indicates that Assad regime does not recognise the existence of a problem in Syria. It, also, reflects the regime’s continuation in ruling Syria on the same foundations on which it was built in 1970’s when Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, took power via military coup. In short, these foundations are: authoritarianism and the rule of one party and one family.

On the other hand, the balance of power began to incline in favour of Assad regime, both internally and externally, which encouraged it to hold these comical presidential elections. Internally, the regime, through its allies Russia and Iran, succeeded to regain control of more than half of Syria. The rest percentage of the land is controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in east and northeast, plus some pockets occupied by Turkey in northwest.

Externally, there are signs that some of the major Arab countries in the region are seeking to rebuild diplomatic and economic relations with Assad regime and to reactivate its membership in the Arab League. The pretext is to limit the growing Iranian and Turkish influence in Syria without any regard for what this regime has caused to Syria and Syrian people.

Even if we assume that this unacceptable excuse is correct, it appears useless and too late. At the same time, it seems that the main Arab countries do not have many options in this regard. Especially since the alternative that was looming on the horizon until recently was a common Turkish-Qatari fabrication represented by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood branch.

These elections are taking place outside the context of the political transition process that is supposed to be based on UN Resolution 2254. Worse still, these elections are tantamount to a lack of recognition by Assad regime and its partners of the political process based on international and regional consensus. Put differently, these elections can be considered as the last nail in the coffin of UN Resolution 2254, which has no role or effect anymore.

by: Jwan Dibo