The last time Syria held presidential elections, in 2014, there was no question whether President Bashar-Al Assad would win, but with opposition forces in control of the country’s cities as well as the suburbs of Damascus, his future was still far from safe.
According to The Guardian, seven years later, after the regime ‘s Russian and Iranian allies intervened and turned the tide of the war, much of Syria is now back under Assad’ s control. On Wednesday, its citizens will return to the polls for a rogue democratic show set up to give the president a glimmer of legitimacy both at home and abroad.
This year’s campaign began after the supreme constitutional court approved three of 51 applications for candidates a week ago: Abdullah Salloum Abdullah, a former member of Syria’s legislative authority; Mahmoud Ahmad Marie, who is part of the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva; and Assad himself.
While Assad is confident of winning a fourth seven-year term, all three candidates have vowed to fix the economy, which collapsed last year under the weight of war, sanctions and Covid-19, and bring in five million refugees. of country home. Abdullah also made a bold promise to tackle corruption, which is systematic in Syria.
An amnesty earlier this month for more than 400 civil servants, judges, lawyers and journalists arrested in a crackdown on social media dissent has been widely seen by rights activists and loved ones of the tens of thousands of prisoners still missing in regime prisons as a service to democratic norms before the poll.
A spike in the value of the Syrian pound in early 2020 means that about 90% of people living in regime-controlled areas are now living in deep poverty. Public criticism of the deteriorating living conditions is not tolerated, but even so, the situation has caused unrest in areas of Syria where regime control is softer. In Druze-majority Sweida, in the south-west, election boards erected last week were torn down and sprinkled with red paint within hours.
Syria has been ruled by the Assad family since 1970, after which parliament and government were stripped of many decision-making powers and important positions filled with loyalists as the Ba’ath party worked to consolidate its status as “leader of state and society.” ”
Bashar was the third choice as the successor to his father, Hafez, taking over the post after the latter’s death in 2000. The lenient ophthalmologist claimed he wanted to bring genuine political reforms to the country, but ended up causing even more much more brutality than the father. The street protests during the Arab Spring in 2011 were met with extreme violence by the police state and turned into a complex and unstable civil war.