Despite the Western reaction, Assad, in power since 2000, looks set to govern for seven more years. His major task will be attempting to break armed opposition groups in Idlib and to repair a nation destroyed by 10 years of war and crippling sanctions.
Amidst a decade-long war that has devastated the country, Syrians went to the polls last week in an election that gave another seven-year term to current leader Bashar al-Assad. With a turnout of over 78%, Assad achieved an overwhelming victory against his nearest opponent, Mahmoud Ahmad Marei.
Supporters of the president took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands as the results were publicized, celebrating what they saw as a repudiation of violence and a step forward for the beleaguered nation.
The results were endorsed by many nations friendly towards the government, such as China, Iran and Cuba. “A decisive victory was won by the incumbent head of state,” wrote the foreign ministry of Russia in a statement. “We view the elections as a sovereign affair of the Syrian Arab Republic and an important step towards strengthening its internal stability,” they added.
However, opponents of the Assad administration described the contest as a sham and hopelessly rigged, claiming that his opponents were controlled stooges, that people inside Syria were forced to vote for him, while refugees were blocked from voting. “The Assad regime’s so-called presidential election is neither free nor fair. The U.S. joins France, Germany, Italy, and the U.K. in calling for the rejection of the regime’s attempts to regain legitimacy without respecting the Syrian people’s human rights and freedoms,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Many of the countries Blinken mentioned, including the United States, blocked Syrians from voting at diplomatic missions in their countries.
Despite the Western reaction, Assad, in power since 2000, looks set to govern for seven more years. His major task will be attempting to break armed opposition groups in Idlib and to repair a nation destroyed by 10 years of war and crippling sanctions. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that over 13 million Syrians, including 6.7 million internally displaced people, require humanitarian assistance. A further 6.6 million people have left the country since fighting began in 2011.
Joining MintPress to discuss the elections, the humanitarian situation and the future of the Syrian Arab Republic is Dan Kovalik.
Dan is a human rights lawyer and adjunct professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh. A prolific author, Dan’s work and activism has taken him around the world, including to Colombia and Venezuela. He spent a week in Syria, where he observed the elections first-hand.
Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera
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