Syria is to hold presidential elections on May 26th, this is the second election to be held since war began.
The announcement was made by the Syrian parliament speaker on April 18th.
Syrians abroad will be “able to vote at embassies” on May 20th, Hammouda Sabbagh said in a statement, adding that prospective candidates could hand in their applications starting from April 19th.
“I call on Syrians to exercise their right to elect the president,” said the Speaker, Hammouda Sabbagh, after parliament announced the election date.
He said the poll would be a signal that Syria had successfully overcome its devastating conflict.
President Bashar al-Assad, who took power following the death of his father Hafez in 2000, has not yet officially announced he will stand for re-election.
He won the previous election in 2014, with 90% of the vote. This took place three years after war began in the Arab Republic.
Under Syria’s 2012 constitution, a president may only serve two seven-year terms – with the exception of the president elected in the 2014 poll.
Additionally, under the Syrian constitution, those who intend to run for presidency must have lived in the country continuously for at least 10 years, and must have the backing of at least 35 parliament members.
The majority in parliament is held by Assad’s Baath party. The party won an expected majority in Syria’s parliamentary elections in 2020, denounced as theatrical by the opposition.
The credibility of the upcoming elections has been cast into doubt for some, due to the fact that not all Syrians will be able to take part in the ballot. This includes Idlib, which is under control of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated “moderate opposition” of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
The prospect of an election was criticized by the US and its Western allies, who claimed it would “neither be free nor fair” and called for “an inclusive political process.”
This year marks a decade since the start of the conflict in Syria, in which international forces have been involved.
The mainstream Turkish-backed opposition alliance, whose forces control a swathe of territory in north-western Syria where millions of civilians have fled, dismissed the announcement.
“We consider Assad’s parliament to have no legitimacy. This is a theatrical farce and a desperate effort to reinvent this criminal regime,” said Mustafa Sejari, an opposition figure.
Opposition and western leaders have demanded for a decade that Assad, whom they accuse of crimes against humanity, step down.
“These elections will neither be free nor fair. They will not legitimise the Assad regime,” the US envoy, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the UN security council in March.
Assad’s supporters say Washington and its western allies are seeking to bring him down with the crippling sanctions they have imposed.
“Despite the expectations of Syria‘s enemies, the presidential ballot will go ahead,” said Husam al Deen Khalsi, a politician from Latakia province, a key location of Assad’s Alawite sect. “Our rulers have not followed Washington’s or Israel’s dictates.”
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