The Syrian people are showing resilience in the face of foreign-instigated terror in their country by turning out in large numbers to participate in parliamentary elections. For the first time, a number of opposition parties are also allowed to contest the elections. Until the time of filing this report, there were no reports of terrorist attacks although that is a possibility as they would like to disrupt the process, if they can.
Wednesday April 13, 2016, 08:57 DST
Braving threats of rocket and missile attacks from terrorists, millions of Syrians are participating in elections to the 250-member parliament. There are long lines in cities and towns under government control where people are able to cast ballot in one of 7,300 polling stations.
More than 3500 candidates are vying for the 250 parliamentary seats. In a surprise move, President Bashar al Asad had announced holding elections on the eve of the US-Russia brokered ceasefire that went into effect in most parts of the country on February 27.
The takfiri terrorists—ISIS/ISIL, Daesh, al-Nusra Front and other foreign-instigated terrorist groups were excluded from the ceasefire agreement and areas under their control are not having elections. While the ceasefire has general held in the rest of the country, in the takfiri-held areas, the Syrian army has continued its campaign.
In recent weeks, the historic city of Palmyra was liberated from the takfiris’ clutches and Aleppo is on the verge of being liberated. The Syrian army’s aim is to cut off the supply routes from Turkey so that the takfiris are bottled up in these areas. They will then be left with only two choices: surrender or face a certain death.
Polling stations opened at 07:00 am local time but there were huge line-ups even before that in anticipation of people being able to exercise their right. Polling will go on till 7 pm but could be extended for five hours by the Higher Judicial Committee for Elections if the turnout is heavy and not all people have had the chance to cast ballot.
Unlike past elections when only Ba‘ath Party members were allowed to participate, this time a number of opposition parties are also taking part. President Asad had promised that all political groups that eschew violence would be allowed to participate and join the process to help rebuild the country after the five-year-long war that has devastated the country.
As is typical of any elections, there are election posters for candidates everywhere. One poster in particular, strung from the tallest building in Damascus, accurately captured the mood of the election. It proclaimed: "The elections of resistance."
The parliamentary elections are being held at a time when the second round of UN-brokered talks, albeit indirect, are taking place in Geneva. Syrian government officials and opposition groups are trying to agree on a political solution to the problem.
Backed by the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, opposition groups are demanding the ouster of President Bashar al Asad as part of the deal. The Syrian government has rejected this outright, calling it a “red line.” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem reiterated this again saying the fate of the president would be decided by the Syrian people in an election, not through the coercive tactics of foreign governments.
The parliamentary elections are likely to strengthen the hand of the Syrian government that is already in a commanding position militarily vis-à-vis the foreign backed terrorists who are on the run.