Millions of Syrians are called to vote today for the elections of the new parliament. This consultation, wanted by President Bashar al-Assad, takes place at a difficult time for Damascus. The country is still at war and many regions are controlled by Isis, al-Qaeda, or Al Nusra Front. Besides, there are several hundreds of displaced people who cannot go to the polls. Meanwhile, peace talks resumed in Geneva, an actual crossroads for Syria and for Assad.
According to the Syrian President, this consultation is fully legitimate. He repeated it during a meeting with a delegation of the Federation Council – the upper house of the Russian parliament on a regional basis – in Damascus. Upon their return, the members of the delegation spread the reason of the conference. “During our meeting, Assad mentioned the criticisms received from US Secretary of State John Kerry” – said one of them, Dmitry Sablin – “and pointed out that the opinion of the Syrian people matters more to him than the evaluations of western representatives.”
Sablin then reported that the leader from Damascus claimed “the existence of an active political life in Syria. Assad would have specified that there are almost twelve thousand candidates for the legislative elections and that participation rate is higher in Syria than in many Western States.” Besides – the Russian PM went on -, the President stressed “the extreme importance of the electoral process”, which he claims to be corroborated exactly by this “unprecedented participation rate among our compatriots”. According to Syria’s strongman, “it can be explained first with the fact that Syrians believe in political dialogue” as a way to “allow a rapid restoration of peace.”
Actually, consultation is not recognized by the United Nations, which maintains its position on convening people to the polls only within the eighteen months following the possible achievement of an agreement between loyalists and opponents, in accordance with the peace plan on which Geneva talks are based: although yesterday, on an official visit to Damascus, the special envoy Staffan de Mistura preferred to avoid even simply alluding to this question. The Italian-Swedish diplomat had already stressed on several occasions UN’s position, which is contrary to tomorrow elections.
Moreover, compared to the previous 2012 parliamentary elections and the presidential elections of two years ago, the possibility to put into practice the right to vote will be heavily restricted not only by the actual conditions, but also in point of law. In fact, formerly there was only one national constituency and anyone could go to a polling station no matter where this person actually was; now the original ones have been reconstituted, hence people will have to vote where they are registered, provided that it is physically possible. The only exceptions, the provinces of Raqqa and Idlib in the North-West, which are respectively the strongholds of Isis and of the local branch of al-Qaeda: it would have been too much if they claimed to organize the elections there too.
If we leave aside the results which will obviously confirm the victory of the coalition headed by the Baath – the party that has been in power for 53 uninterrupted years -, starting from next Friday, the government delegation will be able to leave for Switzerland and join the negotiations coordinated by de Mistura: for everyone, even for the loyalists, that is still the true deadline.