The presidential election has begun in the civil war country of Syria. The election is considered fraudulent and the victory of the ruler Bashar al-Assad is certain. Senior officials speak of threats.
In Syria, the presidential election, which western states criticized as neither free nor fair, began on Wednesday. A victory for incumbent Bashar al-Assad is as good as certain, and his two rival candidates have virtually no chance. Assad has been in power for over 20 years. The country has been in civil war since 2011, but with support from Russia and Iran in particular, Assad was able to regain and consolidate control over large parts of Syria.
“Without him, Syria would not be Syria”
At the University of Damascus, hundreds of students lined up to vote. Numerous buses were parked in front of the site. “With our blood and our soul we sacrifice our lives for you, Bashar,” chanted several students before the polling stations opened. “We came to elect President Bashar al-Assad. Syria would not be Syria without him,” said the student Amal.
With the election, the government wants to show that the country is functioning normally despite the civil war. According to information from officials who wanted to remain anonymous, numerous rallies have been organized in recent days to ensure a high turnout.
“Go to the polls or face the consequences”
The powerful security apparatus on which Assad’s power rests also explicitly instructed high-ranking officials to take part in the vote. “We have been told that if we don’t vote, we have to vote or face the consequences,” said a government official in Latakia.
Germany, the USA, France, Italy and Great Britain had sharply criticized the vote in a joint statement on Wednesday and pledged their support to the opposition. Assad took power in 2000 after the death of his father Hafiz, who had ruled Syria for 30 years. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed during the ten-year civil war. Eleven million people – about half of the population – have been evicted from their homes and apartments.