Syria holds parliamentary elections amid new sanctions, crippling economy

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Syria holds parliamentary elections amid new sanctions, crippling economy

Syria’s parliamentary elections have gone ahead after delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Polls were also held in former opposition strongholds — for the first time since the civil war started.

Voters in war-torn Syria cast their ballots to elect a new parliament on Sunday, as the country grapples with international sanctions and a crumbling economy. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, polling staff wore masks, checked voters’ temperature and ensured they stayed at a distance while lining up for the vote.

Some 2,100 candidates were contesting for parliament’s 250 seats in all the 15 multi-seat constituencies, according to official figures. However, any real political opposition is absent, with most candidates from Baath and its loyalist groups. President Bashar al-Assad is expected to claim an overwhelming victory.

Assad and his wife Asma voted in Damascus, with the president’s office posting photos of the couple who wore white face masks.

The poll was the third parliamentary election since the pro-democracy uprising against President Assad in 2011, which sparked a civil war that has killed more than 360,000 people.

The vote, which has been delayed twice since April, was being held in government-controlled areas — including for the first time in former opposition strongholds — and also in areas where Damascus has partial control, for example in the provinces of al-Hasakah, Idlib and al-Raqqa.

More than 7,400 polling stations were in place, according to the electoral commission. But millions of Syrians who fled the war and currently live abroad were not eligible to vote, leading Syria’s exiled opposition to label the polls a “farce.”

“The regime has not known (real) elections since it seized power 50 years ago,” senior opposition figure Nasr al-Hariri said, referring to the date Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad became president.

“Everything called an election has been a farce under security and military grip … to form a sham parliament for the regime to use to pass legislation to serve the gang in power,” he said.

“All that has changed today is that half the Syrian people have been forced to flee,” he told AFP.

Results are expected by Tuesday. In the last polls in 2016, turnout stood at 57%

More than 7,400 polling stations were in place, according to the electoral commission. But millions of Syrians who fled the war and currently live abroad were not eligible to vote, leading Syria’s exiled opposition to label the polls a “farce.”

“The regime has not known (real) elections since it seized power 50 years ago,” senior opposition figure Nasr al-Hariri said, referring to the date Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad became president.

“Everything called an election has been a farce under security and military grip … to form a sham parliament for the regime to use to pass legislation to serve the gang in power,” he said.

“All that has changed today is that half the Syrian people have been forced to flee,” he told AFP.

Results are expected by Tuesday. In the last polls in 2016, turnout stood at 57%

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