Syria heads to ballots amid violence
UN monitors visit a Syrian military outpost in the village of Ain Hawr in the Rif of Damascus on May 6, 2012. AFP photoSyria is set to hold today a multi-party parliamentary election while opposition leaders yesterday urged voters to stay away also dismissing polls as “a cynical attempt” by President Bashar al-Assad to hold on to power.
The vote, initially scheduled for September 2011, was postponed to May 7 this year after al-Assad announced the launch of a reform process. Security and logistical concerns notwithstanding, the credibility of the vote has also been hit by the refusal of the main opposition forces to participate. Today’s election will be the first time Syria has held multi-party elections since the adoption in February by referendum of a new constitution that ended the five-decade stranglehold on power of the ruling Baath party.
Nine parties have been created, and seven have candidates vying for a parliamentary seat. Pro-regime parties led by the Baath are represented under a coalition called the National Progressive Front. A total of 7,195 candidates have registered to stand for the 250 seats, state news agency SANA said.
But al-Assad’s opponents say reforms without their input are a farce and that elections cannot be held under the threat of guns. “We think the elections have no credibility at all in the middle of a situation where the regime is killing the population,” said Bassma Kodmani, a spokeswoman for the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group in exile. “It is an insult to the democratic process.” On the ground, violence killed at least five people on May 5 as a blast hit northern city of Aleppo and two blasts hit Damascus. The opposition for its part blamed the regime while the Syrian administration blamed the “terrorists.”