The Assad regime held a parliamentary election on Sunday even as the Syrian economy is collapsing and new Assad-targeted U.S. sanctions aim to force the regime to accept a new political reality. In short, Assad believes election of his parliamentarians to be a legitimate affair representing what Syrians want in the 21st century. Syrians died to have a more democratic system.
Nothing has changed in Syria. Not after a 10-year war that has ravaged the country while the regime still believes it’s the 70’s.
Today, people voted across government territory at more than 7,000 polling stations; including for the first time in former rebel bastions that the army has recaptured over the last two years.
Assad’s opponents denounced the vote as a farce, nearly a decade into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and made millions refugees.
The elections, the regime originally set for, postponed them twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. At a polling station in the capital Damascus, many voters – who were disinfected upon arrival – said they were worried about the rising costs of living.
“We have to find a solution for the living conditions,” said Samer Mahmoud, who owns a clothing shop.
“God willing, I hope we overcome these sanctions,” said Mouna Sukkar after casting her ballot.
THE MOST CORRUPT AND UNETHICAL CANDIDATES
More than 1,600 candidates, many prominent businessmen, were competing for 250 MP seats in the third such election since the conflict erupted in 2011. No surprises were expected in the vote that marked Assad’s second decade in power, with no real opposition to the ruling Baath party and its allies.
Assad rewards his supporters by giving them the chance to earn a seat in Parliament. Those he rewards happen to be the most corrupt Syrians with the worst ethics. Their incompetencies playing a zero role in their selection.
The Syrian National Coalition, an opposition bloc based in Turkey that had Western backing, called it a “theatrical election by the Assad regime” with millions uprooted or in exile.
In the town of Douma, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus where a fierce army offensive mass murdered Syrians in 2018, candidate banners hung in front of piles of rubble, collapsed rooftops and buildings pockmarked with bullets.
The town was the site of a suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens of people in 2018. The mass murder promoted a weak Western missile strikes. Damascus and Moscow denied any chemical attack took place.
Thanks to help from Russia and Iran, Assad holds more of Syria than at any time in the war. His holdings represent 60% of the country. The Kurds and the rebels in Idlib hold the other 40%.
But the battered economy is sinking deeper into trouble; partially hit by the war and partially by a financial meltdown in Lebanon that choked off dollars. In addition, on July 17, the U.S. applied the toughest sanctions against the regime aimed at forcing negotiations for a political solution with the Assad opposition.
Washington says the goal is to hold Assad to account.
Reuters contributed to this article.