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Syria’s al-Assad wins the election for the fourth term, critics call it a “farce”
By Ahmad Al Jabbouri
May 30, 2021
On May 27 Hamouda Sabbagh, head of the Syrian parliament, announced at a live news conference that Bashar al-Assad had won 95.1 percent of the votes and the turnout rate in this election was 78.6%. According to official statistics, his two rivals, Abdullah Salum Abdullah and Mahmoud Ahmad Mari won 1.5 and 3.3 percent of the votes, respectively.
Opponents of Assad’s government have described the election as a “farce” and the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the United States issued a joint statement calling the vote “illegitimate” and saying it would be “neither free nor fair” without UN oversight. They condemned Bashar al-Assad’s decision to hold elections outside the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and they supported the stance of all Syrians, including civil society organizations and the opposition groups. In this statement, the participant countries warned that this “rigged election” will not make any progress in resolving the political crisis in Syria.
On Wednesday Assad told the media that Western criticism of the Syria vote has “zero value“. According to Syrian officials, 18 million people were eligible to vote in the election. Nevertheless, the presidential election was not held in the areas controlled by Islamist insurgents and the cities controlled by Syrian Kurdish forces.
At least eight million Syrian civil war refugees are living in northwestern and northeastern regions that are currently occupied by these opponents. About five million Syrians also live as refugees in neighboring countries, most of whom did not participate in the election. Opposition groups had previously stated that the election is just a fake show to legitimize Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria.
Syria is a country that has been devastated by a decade of civil war. The war began after months of bloody crackdowns on protesters who first took to the streets in March 2011 against the Assad government to demand democracy.
At least 388,000 people have been killed in this civil war, and half of Syria’s population have left their homes, including six million who have fled abroad.
The Syrian presidential election was held in government-controlled areas and at some Syrian embassies outside the country.
“The election aimed to humiliate the Syrian people,” said Yahya al-Aridi, the spokesman for the Syrian Negotiation Commission. “This is the government’s decision to destroy the peaceful political process with the help of Russia and Iran. It is a continuation of tyranny and oppression,” he added.
Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000. He succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled for more than a quarter of a century. Syria’s last election in 2014 faced fierce fighting across the country and a boycott by the opposition groups. Since then, the war has been entirely in favor of al-Assad’s government. The Syrian army has taken control of the major cities with the help of Russian airstrikes and Iranian-led militias.
However, large parts of the country are still under the control of insurgents, jihadist forces, and Kurdish-led forces, and the prospect of finding a political solution to the conflict is dim.
In 2011, while Arab Spring was spreading to the countries, Bashar al-Assad’s government severely suppressed peaceful protests in Syria. The protests eventually led to a civil war and displaced 11 million people, half of Syria’s population. Hundreds of thousands were killed during these clashes.
Since 2015, following the Russian-Iranian military intervention and support, the Syrian government has been able to regain control of most of the lost areas. Russia supported the Syrian government with weapons, ground, and air forces, and Iran helped keep Bashar al-Assad in power by sending Shiite militias such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
According to Reuters, the Syrian presidential election turnout in the 2014 election was 73% and Bashar al-Assad won 89% of the votes.