By Amit Kumar:
People of Syria, a country that is plagued by the Civil War since March 2011, have something to read in their newspapers for a change, with top headlines probably running as “Presidential elections will be held in Syria on 3rd June 2014.”
But to my wonder, how many Syrians are actually left in this Arab country? The UN says more than 100,000 people have died since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 and more than 2 million people have fled the country. The UNHCR(United Nations High Commission for Refugees) registers 2,500 new refugees daily in Lebanon, more than one person per minute.
Peeping into the past
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria since the year 2000 after the demise of his father who ruled the country for nearly 30 years. al-Assad is Alawite, a small branch of Shia Muslims in the country where more than 75% of population is Sunnis. Rampant corruption, inflation, unemployment and negligence of the government led Syria to join hands with Arab Spring. Wide-scale crackdown in Daraa, failure of U.N. Peace Mission, followed by Houla Massacre compelled even Kofi Annan, the then UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, to resign. Though Assad maintains that this is a war against terrorism, rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism of the Assad government and are protesting; disinclined to any peace talks.
Elections amid war
As the war rages on, Syria has thrown itself up for a fresh Presidential election despite the fear of current peace mediator and successor of Kofi Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi. “If there is an election, then my suspicion is that the opposition, all the oppositions, will probably not be interested in talking to the government,” he says .
Until now, Bashar Assad has been elected by referendums in which he was the only candidate and voters cast yes–or–no ballots. Each time, he won with more than 90 per cent of the vote. But this year is different. Assad faces two other candidates in the race: Maher Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri, both members of the so-called internal opposition.
Political analysts say it would be farcical to reason that the votes would actually present the true choice of the voters, and that Assad is certain to win. It would be impossible to hold elections in areas controlled by rebels. On the other hand, in areas under government control, many would not dare voting against Assad for the fear of secret police who had kept a close eye on past elections.
Looking for the change?Â
History and the present political permutation and combination offer no hope of success along this path. Is this a preparation for the elections with the results already known and are there other candidates only to accessorize the so-called democracy of Syria? The constitution sets a limit of two 7–year terms for the President starting the count from the passage of the Constitution. If Assad wins this time, which is likely so, he could run again in 2021 and remain legally in power through 2028.