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article imageBashar al-Assad to hold presidential elections this summer

By Scott Tuttle     Mar 30, 2014 in World
Damascus - The Syrian presidential election will proceed as scheduled, at least according to officials. Despite the heavy death toll and destruction in the war-torn country, experts say things are looking up for Bashar al-Assad.
Syria's constitution mandates that an election be held every seven years. However, elections in Syria have historically favored the Assads ever since Bashar's father Hafez al-Assad came to power 44 years ago.
In 2007, Assad ran unopposed, and voters were given a simple ballot that asked "should Bashar Assad stay in power for another seven-year term?" Below this question was a green circle marked yes and a red circle marked no. To make matters even simpler, the polls offered voters pre-marked ballots in Assad's favor. That is, those who wished to vote for Assad needed only to ask for the pre-marked ballots, but, in order to vote against Assad, voters had to ask for an unmarked ballot before the watchful stares of police and intelligence officers.
Not surprisingly, Assad won the 2007 election by a firm 98% of the vote.
“Not once in the whole day did I see someone vote against Assad,” said Siraj, a former Syrian soldier who deserted his post. “If you asked for an unmarked ballot, all eyes would be on you.”
With the election reforms Syria's parliament passed two years ago, officials insist the upcoming elections will be fair and that multiple candidates will be able to run against Assad, which has never been an option during Assad's 14-year presidency or his father's 30-year one before him.
During peace talks in Geneva earlier this year, the only solution offered by Assad's spokesmen was this upcoming election in which they argued that the fate of Syria should be up to the Syrian people. Succinctly stated: If Assad wins, he stays; if he losses, he will step down.
However, experts doubt that any contender will stand a chance of beating Assad even with the current election reforms. In rebel-controlled territories, it will be impossible to hold polls. In government-controlled territories, people will be afraid to vote against Assad as doing so will put them under the secret police radar.
“I very much doubt that a presidential election and another seven-year term for President Bashar Assad will put an end to the unbearable suffering of the Syrian people, stop the destruction of the country and re-establish harmony and mutual confidence in the region,” said peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly.
An official date has not yet been set for the election, but Syrian law states that it must be held between 60 and 90 days before the end of Assad's term, which is July 17.
More about bashar al assad, Syrian elections, syrian conflict, Rebels, Middle East
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