On Monday, nominations were open for Syria’s presidential elections to be held next monthc — an election that is certain to be won by President Bashar Al Assad just as easily as he did seven years ago.
The presidential polls, set for 26th of May, are again being held while Syria remains at war with itself. It is true that large parts of the country are now under government control, nevertheless there still is a strong rebel force, particularly in the main opposition stronghold of Idlib.
This is not the first presidential election held during the civil war. In 2014, Al Assad won a similar ceremonial election by more than 92 per cent of the vote. The Syrian president who has been in power since 2000 is not expected to face a serious contest this time over.
Farcical exercise of ‘Syrian democracy’
And without an international supervision, as suggested by United Nations envoy Geir Pedersen, we may never know if the upcoming election is fair or just another farcical exercise of ‘Syrian democracy’.
Syria’s civil war started in March 2011, at the height of the so- called Arab Spring, which saw the overthrow of few Arab regimes. In Syria, the protests quickly turned into a full-scale war between the regimes, and its foreign supporters on one side, and its opponents, including dozens of rebel and terror groups and their foreign supporters on the other. Ten years on, Al Assad seems to have won the war- with the aid of Russia, Iran and its main proxy, Hezbollah.
His victory has come with a heavy price on his country though. With nearly 400,000 deaths, including 30,000 children, and more than 12 million people uprooted from their lands, there is very little to celebrate even if he, as expected, wins another seven-year term as a president of a fractured and ravaged country.
Rapidly deteriorating economy
The economy too is rapidly deteriorating with the local currency nosediving to its lowest value against the dollar while the international sanctions and the impact of the coronavirus has halted most business activities.
Moreover, the political dialogue, which began few years ago, has stalled. Pedersen and his team have trying to get both the government and the opposition to agree on drafting a new Syrian constitution, as part of the Geneva political process, which will eventually lead to presidential and parliamentary elections supervised by the UN.
However, in January the UN envoy said there had been little progress due to a lack of “true engagement” by Syria. The United States and other Western countries allege that Damascus was “deliberately” delaying the draft of the new constitution in order to avoid having to hold the 26 May 2021 presidential election under UN supervision, which is quite plausible. As for next month’s elections, the outcome has already been decided.