The winner of the Syrian presidential election was already certain. The result is even clearer than in the previous vote. The opposition speaks of a “farce”, the West of fraud.
The ruler Bashar al-Assad was re-elected in the civil war country of Syria with an overwhelming majority. According to official information, the 55-year-old received 95.1 percent of the votes, as a parliamentary speaker announced. However, the opposition dismissed the results as illegitimate. The leading government critic Hadi al-Bahra described them on Twitter as falsified and manipulated on Friday. There are also great doubts about this internationally. The European Union does not recognize the outcome of the presidential election.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, congratulated Assad and assured him of further support in the “fight against terrorism and extremism”. The results fully confirmed Assad’s authority, he wrote in a telegram. Along with Iran, Russia is Assad’s most important ally.
Opposing candidates with no real chance
The authoritarian ruling head of state has been in power since 2000, which he took over from his father Hafiz al-Assad. He is now entering his fourth term, which lasts seven years – so until 2028. In the 2014 election, he received around 89 percent.
According to the information, the turnout this time was almost 79 percent. However, Bahra doubted that so many Syrians had cast their vote. The numbers given are “making you laugh and cry”. Assad’s two opposing candidates had no chance in the vote last Wednesday. In any case, they were only considered candidates for counting.
Millions have left the country
A civil war has been raging in Syria for more than ten years, in the course of which around twelve million people have been displaced. Many areas have been destroyed. In addition, the country is in a serious economic crisis. Millions suffer from hunger and poverty. Internationally, Syria’s government is largely isolated. The government supporters control around two thirds of the country. Only in these areas could the Syrians cast their votes.
After the election results were announced, the state media showed celebrations in various parts of the country. Thousands of people celebrated in the center of the capital Damascus. Despite the corona pandemic, they were densely packed. Many waved Syrian flags or held up portraits of Assad. Fireworks rose into the sky.
EU does not recognize result
The choice has also met with international criticism. The EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell said that she did not meet the criteria of a “real democratic vote”. It undermines efforts to resolve the conflict. The EU also extended its sanctions against Damascus by one year.
UN Syria mediator Geir Pedersen was also critical. The vote is not part of the international political process, he affirmed before the UN Security Council in New York. A Security Council resolution provides for elections in Syria under UN supervision after the government and opposition have agreed on a new constitution. However, the work of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva has been on hold for months.
According to observers, Syria’s leadership was about a high turnout in the election in order to give Assad additional legitimacy. A Syrian teacher reported that she and her colleagues had been asked to vote by the ruling Ba’ath Party. With the result, Assad can present himself to the international community as the ruler of the country with no alternative, in order to break the isolation. Recently there have been reports of rapprochement between Syria and Saudi Arabia.