HomePoliticsNewsLIVE BLOG: Bashar al-Assad wins fourth presidential poll in Syria

LIVE BLOG: Bashar al-Assad wins fourth presidential poll in Syria

President Bashar al Assad won by a landslide the second round of presidential elections since the beginning of the war in 2011.

With his campaign slogan, "Hope through work", Assad has cast himself as the sole architect of a reconstruction phase for the war-ravaged country. Photo: Louai Beshara, AFP.

President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for over half a century, is set to win his fourth presidential term on Wednesday, as an effort to cement his image as the only hope for recovery in the war-torn country, AFP reports. 

With President Bashar al-Assad almost certain to hold onto power in Wednesday’s election, Syria will have been ruled for more than five decades by the same family, the power passing from father to son.

Last week, thousands of Syrians abroad with the right paperwork cast early ballots in their embassies.

But those who had fled the country illegally and could not show an exit stamp in their passport were barred from voting, AFP reported.

Several countries that oppose Assad blocked the vote altogether, including Turkey and Germany, which host large Syrian refugee populations.

As the roads of Damascus have been lined with pictures of the incumbent who faces two other candidates from the “tolerated” opposition, the symbolic poll in Syria has sent ripples of unrest through Lebanon. 

The country hosts roughly 1.5 million Syrian refugees and political factions hold resentment against war crimes committed by Syrian during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war and the occupation that followed and ended in 2005. 

Thousands of Syrians flocked last Thursday to their embassy in Baabda, south of Beirut, for the presidential poll, as buses packed with voters jammed the main roads leading to the polling station. 

Vehicles carrying voters came under attack by groups of young men identified as hailing from Christian parties who lobbed stones or pounded passengers with their fists. 

Some Lebanese politicians condemned the attacks on the voters, while others slammed the loud show of support for Bashar al Assad, calling for the voters to be denied the status of war refugees in Lebanon. 

Follow NOW’s live blog for the latest news and reactions from the ground.

Assad gives victory speech following reelection

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a video address to the nation the day after it was announced that he had won a fourth term in office.

In his speech, he thanked the “patriots” who came out and voted for him in the election, but also used the opportunity to attack those who rose up against him during the brutal civil war that engulfed the country in 2011. Throughout his speech, Assad all but declared the war over and himself the victor, despite some parts of the country remaining resistant to his regime’s rule.

“You defined the revolution and brought it back to it after its name was tarnished by a part of the mercenaries and the loss of honor who hold a Syrian passport,” Assad stated cooly during his speech. “You saved its reputation and re-launched it, so what happened were not celebrations at all, but rather it was a revolution in the true and not metaphorical sense of the word.”

He added that “the enemies” would not break the Syrian people no matter what “the enemies of the homeland with their different nationalities, loyalties and subordination” tried to do, hinting at the heavy sanctions put in place by western countries.

“I am confident that with this fighting spirit, we will be able to defeat all our enemies, no matter how many fights and how rhetoric intensifies,” Assad stated. “This spirit is what we need for the next stage, which is a phase of continuous work, resistance and steadfastness, in order to prove to our enemies once again that fighting our people with its basic needs and lives only intensifies their adherence to their homeland.”

Assad finished his speech by thanking the Syrian people for “choosing me to serve them in the coming constitutional period” and that he was honored to be Syrian

“I salute each individual, family and clan, who expressed their absolute belonging to their country and raised its flag, so they stood firm in the war, and defied in merit,” the Syrian president said firmly.

Assad will now serve as President of Syria for another seven years, expiring in 2028. According to the Syrian constitution, this should be his last term in office, however, the constitution has been changed in the past in order to accommodate the Assad family’s hold on power.

Author: Nicholas Frakes

SANA: Assad wins presidency with 95.1 percent

A day after polls closed, Bashar al-Assad secured a fourth term as president of Syria after winning 95.1 percent of the vote, state-owned news agency SANA reports.

According to parliamentary speaker Hammouda Sabbagh,  14 million Syrians voted in the election while 13.5 million voted for Assad.

Despite Assad’s unsurprising victory, western countries like the US have stated that they will not recognize the results and called the election unfair.

State-owned national Agency SANA shows videos of thousands of Assad supporters in the port of Latakia, a pro-Assad stronghold, celebrating the results of the poll.

Lebanese army arrests two in Tripoli

The Lebanese Army arrested two people on Thursday in Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood of Tripoli, North Lebanon. The arrests came after a report that a hand grenade was thrown on Syria Street, which separates the majority Sunni neighborhood from the Alawite inhabited neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.

According to a press release issued by the Lebanese Army on Thursday, the troops raided a house in Tabbaneh and seized an unknown quantity of military equipment, grenades, and ammunition, the National News Agency reports.

The majority Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh and neighboring Alawite Jabal Mohsen have been at odds since the Lebanese civil war and during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, after the Syrian army together with Jabal Mohsen-based Arab Democratic Party militia crushed a Sunni Islamist uprising in 1984 and left over 400 people dead.

Since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, Tripoli has seen many clashes between pro-Assad fighters in Jabal Mohsen and supporters of the Syrian uprising in Bab al-Tabbaneh.

EU extends sanctions for another year

The European Union extended on Thursday the sanctions against the Syrian regime for another year, until June 1, 2022, the European Council announced on Thursday, a day after the presidential poll.

The measure was taken “in light of the continued repression of the civilian population in the country,” a press release of the Council read.

The EU blacklist now includes 283 persons targeted by both an asset freeze and a travel ban, as well as 70 entities subject to an assets freeze.

Current sanctions against Syria were introduced in 2011 in response to the violent repression of the civilian population by the Assad regime.

They target the Assad family, close politicians, government officials, as well as companies and prominent businessmen benefitting from their ties with the regime and the war economy.

Restrictive measures on Syria also include a ban on the import of oil, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of the assets of the Central Bank of Syria held in the EU, and export restrictions on equipment and technology that might be used for internal repression, as well as on equipment and technology for the monitoring or interception of internet or telephone communications.

Poll workers filling out ballots, opposition voices say

With voting complete for Syria’s presidential election and Bashar al-Assad expected to win a fourth term in office, the judicial body in charge of the election has assured the public that the election was free and fair.

“We did not record any violations or problems in any electoral centers and we did not receive any complaints from the judicial subcommittees for the elections,” Syria’s Supreme Judicial Court for Elections told state media.

However, video footage has emerged showing poll workers filling out ballots and giving them to voters to put in the ballot boxes, undermining the very notion of holding an election.

“High turnout”

The Syrian Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections announced that, as a result of the high turnout at the polling stations, the election period was extended by five hours in all electoral centers in all governorates, Syrian Al Watan daily reports.

Muffled opposition

Daraa has been the main focal point for Syrians speaking out against the elections with areas like al-Harak, in eastern Daraa, refusing to even open polling stations in their governorate. Pictures of Syrians protesting against the rigged presidential poll have spread on Syrian opposition social media channels on the eve of the elections.

On Wednesday, however, a fairly large demonstration against what protesters called the illegitimate elections started in the northeastern opposition-held city of Idlib.

In rebel-held northwestern Syria, home to three million people, opposition activists distributed mock campaign posters ridiculing Assad.

Nicholas Frakes spoke to Syrian analysts about the state of the Syrian opposition and the hopes for a revival of the Syrian street movement.

Assad: Western criticism has ‘zero value’

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad said Western criticism of Wednesday’s presidential election has “zero value” as he cast his ballot in Douma, a Damascus suburb.

Commenting on US and EU criticism branding the vote “neither free nor fair,” Assad said: “Your opinions have zero value”, AFP reported.

Other voters surrounded Assad at the polling station chanting: “With our blood and with our souls, we sacrifice our lives for you, Bashar.”

Speaking to reporters, Assad condemned criticism from Western countries, “most of which have a deep colonial history.”

“As a state, we do not accept this behavior,” Assad said.

Source: AFP. 

Assad votes

President Bashar al-Assad cast his vote for the 2021 Syrian presidential elections in the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, according to Syrian state media.

Many were quick to note the symbolism of Assad voting in Douma, located in Eastern Ghouta, since the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb in 2018 during the civil war killing an estimated 100-650 people.

Assad, however, used this as a moment to say that his “trip to Douma and my vote there indicates that the Syrian people are united in the face of terrorism.”

“The state does not pay attention to what Western countries say about the elections and the value of those opinions are not equal to anything,” he added.

The US and other Western countries have stated that they will refuse to recognize the results of the election, calling any results “fraudulent” and that it “does not represent any progress towards a political settlement.”

Author: Nicholas Frakes

Syrian president Bashar al Assad and his wife, Asma, voting in East Ghouta. Photo: SANA.

Syria polling stations open

Polling stations opened Wednesday across Syria for an election guaranteed to return President Bashar al-Assad for a fourth term in office.

The official news agency SANA declared voting had started as planned at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) and state television showed long queues forming in several parts of the country.

Syrians will be able to cast their ballot in more than 12,000 polling centers. Results are expected to be announced by Friday evening, 48 hours after polling closes.

The vote takes place amid the lowest levels of violence since the start of Syria’s deadly conflict in 2011 — but with an economy in free-fall.

The 55-year-old Assad, who has been in power since 2000, is sure to keep his job after the election, every aspect of which is controlled by him and his Baath party.

He faces former state minister Abdallah Salloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Merhi, a member of the so-called “tolerated opposition”, long described by exiled opposition leaders as an extension of the regime.

Exiled opposition figures were de facto ruled out by an electoral law that stipulates candidates must have lived in Syria continuously for at least the past decade.

The United States and the European Union have already dismissed the election as a farce.

Source: AFP

Syria vote neither ‘free nor fair’, US and European countries warn

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy denounced Syria’s upcoming presidential election on Tuesday, saying it would be neither “free nor fair.”

“We, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America wish to make clear that Syria’s May 26 presidential election will neither be free nor fair,” they said in a joint statement.

“We denounce the Assad regime’s decision to hold an election outside of the framework described in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and we support the voices of all Syrians, including civil society organizations and the Syrian opposition, who have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate.”

The United States and the four European nations said free and fair elections should be convened under UN supervision and “all Syrians should be allowed to participate.”

“Without these elements, this fraudulent election does not represent any progress towards a political settlement,” they said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faces an election on Wednesday that is all but certain to deliver a fourth term for a leader already in power for 21 years.

Source: AFP

Syrian opposition and human rights groups condemn the poll

Syrians in the city of Al-Harak, east of Daraa, started a general strike and closed all shops on the eve of the presidential poll to protest against the rigged elections. 

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