In Syria, as the voters in the government-held part of the country headed to the polls to cast ballots for the Presidential elections in Syria, it has been widely expected that the latest elections will cement a fourth term for President Bashar al-Assad.
The Presidential Election in Syria on May 26, 2021, was the second one since the beginning of Syria’s uprising-turned-war a decade ago. Bashar al-Assad had won nearly 89% votes in the elections in 2014.
Mahmoud Ahmad Marei, Head of the National Democratic Front, a small, state-endorsed opposition party; and Abdullah Salloum Abdulla, the former state minister of the Parliamentary Affairs, are running against Bashar al-Assad in this election, which has been rejected by the opposition and the western powers as ‘farce’.
Bashar al-Assad has also cast his vote in Douma near the Syrian capital, Damascus, a previous rebel stronghold as well as the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack by the government in 2018.
Polling stations packed with voters:
Reportedly, the polling stations were packed with voters all morning and many students were also forced to cast ballots.
As per a Damascus-based student, some universities will also fail or even expel their students if they don’t vote. However, she added, it doesn’t matter as everyone knows what the results will be as these elections are just a show.
Economic crisis leads to discontent:
According to Danny Makki, a nonresident scholar of the Middle East Institute, the economic crisis had led to major discontent even among the biggest supporters of the Syrian government.
He added that although the elections have been celebratory, the post-election period is where the true challenge awaits.
It will be a hard task to predict how much al-Assad can keep the economy afloat and will be able to manage Syria’s problems, even with the help of Iran and Russia.
However, even though people have been complaining of poverty and inflation, those in opposition are far more hated than the regime.
Western powers call polls in Syria a ‘sham’:
The Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, and Italy have issued a joint statement in which they described the polls in Syria as a sham.
According to the statement, for an election to be credible, all Syrians must be allowed to participate which includes the internally displaced Syrians, refugees, and the members of the diaspora, in a neutral and safe environment.
However, Bashar al-Assad had rejected such criticism stated that the government does not care about such statements.
The Syrian Democratic Council, which controls the northeastern part of the country, also criticized al-Assad’s government for obstructing the meetings and the negotiations and stated that it will not be a part of the Syrian Presidential Election Process.
Domestic refugees in Syria:
Syria has been home to the world’s largest number of displaced people, with millions of domestic refugees in the north-western province of Idlib as well as in the areas in the east that are outside of the Syrian government’s control- run by the Turkish troops.
As per the UN numbers, 13.4 million people (two in three Syrians) are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Even though the country is on the brink of a financial collapse, with limited access to wheat and petrol, the confirmation of Bashar al-Assad as the President can serve as a morale booster.
Syrian Civil War: What leads to the economic and political crisis in Syria?
The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided war. It is fought in Syria between the Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad and various other domestic and foreign forces who oppose both the Syrian government as well as each other.
The unrest in Syria began in 2011 as part of the wider 2011 Arab Spring Protests. It grew out of the discontent with the Syrian government and further escalated to an armed conflict after the protests for Assad’s removal were violently suppressed.