Syrians vote in ‘non-event’ presidential election
Two relatively unknown people are ostensibly running against Assad in this election: former deputy cabinet Abdallah Saloum Abdalla and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, the head of a small, state-sanctioned opposition party.
The US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy issued a joint statement saying the poll “will neither be free nor fair.”
The countries said free and fair elections should be convened under UN supervision and all Syrians should be allowed to participate in a safe and neutral environment, including those who are internally displaced, refugees, and members of the diaspora.
“Without these elements, this fraudulent election does not represent any progress towards a political settlement. We urge the international community to unequivocally reject this attempt by the Assad regime to regain legitimacy without ending its grave human rights violations and meaningfully participating in the UN-facilitated political process to end the conflict,” the statement said.
The election comes amid a financial tailspin in Syria that has caused its currency to plummet and poverty levels to balloon to nearly 90%. The price of food has skyrocketed and most Syrians can barely afford basic staples.
Assad’s expected win, despite the economic crisis, has opened the election to the mockery of experts and activists.
“The international community should treat this as a non-event. It’s absolutely not changing the economic conditions on the ground. It’s not changing the political conditions on the ground. Syrians are just as oppressed. They will be just as oppressed on Thursday as they are today. There’s absolutely nothing that’s changed or will change in their lives,” said Jomana Qaddour, head of the Syria portfolio and non-resident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council.
“The Assad regime and its allies want to continue to affirm that they will not budge an inch despite everything the country has been through in the last ten years, despite the fact that they’re trying to keep the country alive economically,” she added. “They’re still adamant about not changing a single thing.”
“Syrians inside … know very well what happens to those who say no. It happened to my father and it happened to others. So who dares to say no?” said Mustafa.
“Everyone knows it doesn’t matter if they vote or not,” she said. “The result is already known for everyone. But still they need (the election) to use people to be part of this silly play.”