On 2nd June, elections were held in Syria. According to the US Embassy there, “presidential elections held by the Assad regime are a parody of democracy and they have no credibility.” Moreover, the staging of the elections is an insult, a fraud on democracy, on the Syrian people and on the world. An electoral process led by Bashar Al-Assad, who the UN considers to have committed war crimes, mocks the innocent lives lost in the conflict.
After the elections, American Secretary of State, John Kerry stated that “the elections that took place, the so-called elections are a great big zero. They’re meaningless.”
The elections have even called ‘blood elections’ by the Syrian opposition and that name might be appropriate in more ways than just one. As the war and slaughter continue to engulf most of this tormented nation, holding presidential elections might seem very bizarre and macabre, yet there is undeniable logic in it all. For the regime, it is not about filling a constitutional void, or even about legitimacy, as no one is under the illusion that these elections are anywhere near free and fair. In fact, the outcome is a foregone conclusion: another seven-year mandate for Bashar Al-Assad and another rubber stamp vote, albeit this time with two token contenders. All previous elections during the time of the Assad clan were referendums with only one candidate.
No one seriously believes that the embattled Assad and his regime would give up power so easily to ballot after fighting tooth and bail for three years and bringing the entire nation to the brink of annihilation to retain in.
What is the reason for the elections then?
The answer is quite simply to send a strong message to the world, that the regime is still and will continue to be in power. It will boast that it had the support of millions of Syrians, both inside and outside the country, thereby discrediting and destroying the prevalent narrative of the opposition and their backers that the conflict in Syria is an overly simplistic ‘regime against its people’ scenario. For the regime, just getting people to turn out in large numbers, especially outside Syria, is a huge victory in and of itself.
There were scenes of tens of thousands of Syrians flocking to their embassy to vote, sent shock waves through the visibility irritated and angered anti-regime camp. In addition to this, the official Facebook page of Assad’s electoral campaign, ‘Sawa’, has put up pictures and videos of polling stations and voters, including Assad and his wife casting their ballots at a school in Malki, Damascus.
It is scenes like these that infuriate many armed rebel factions, which have vowed to disrupt the elections in any way possible. Unfortunately, this meant bombing and shelling polling stations and regime-controlled areas, which they specifically threatened to do. A later statement, issued by various rebel factions said they would not target voters but warned people to stay at home in case the regime does.
As is tragically only too common, Aleppo has borne the brunt of rebel anger, as shells and tickets fired from their positions in the east of the city fell heavy as rain in the days leading up to the vote and continue to do so. The mayhem and slaughter is unprecedented in the regime areas as hundreds of shells left no neighbourhood unmolested. Streets became deserted as people stayed indoors and shops closed, hoping to avoid random death from above.
The regime crowns it’s victory in blood, while it’s opponents shed the blood of the innocent in blind, retaliatory rage. Syrians are under no illusion that this regime is or can ever be democratic. Neither do they believe that those who fight against it will offer them anything better.
– Al Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/syria-aleppo-elections-rebels-strike-shell-assad.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e70c6e5980-June_4_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e70c6e5980-102320929
– The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/02/syria-election-bashar-al-assad-president
– Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/03/syria-presidential-electi_n_5435706.html
– RT: http://rt.com/op-edge/163596-western-focus-delegitimizing-syria-election/