12/14/2011, 00.00
SYRIA
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Elections, confused but useful to forget the crackdown

by JPG
Final results have not been released. Nothing is known of the turnout and the number of eligible voters who did not participate. Despite the vote, the crackdown continues. Christians pray for peace and reiterate their loyalty to Syria. They also call for Christian-Muslim dialogue and reject foreign intervention.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – Two days after local elections, turnout and results remain unclear. What is clear is that the Syrian regime called voters to the poll on Monday between 7 am and 10 pm to make them forget the crisis that has caused bloodshed for the past 15 months.

Only results for the provinces of Damascus and Sweida (south) were released at 8 pm last night. Officially, 80 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot, but no figure was given on the exact number of voters. In fact, many young voters, 18 years, have not registered to vote and do not have a voter’s card.

Ten days before the vote, President Bashar Al-Assad had issued the decree setting in motion a process that would allow voters without a card to cast his or her ballot on presentation of an identity card. However, this has meant that the total number of voters and thus the turnout remain unknown.

The government rejected a demand by the Syrian parliament to postpone the vote (the single chamber institution has been kept on the sidelines of announced reforms). By holding elections, the regime wanted to show that “everything was fine” in Syria, a slogan found on thousands of posters in Syrian cities. Politically, the elections have no clear meaning because candidates could only run as individuals and not on party tickets, whether Ba’ath or others.

At the same time, the crackdown continued. On Monday, some 30 people were killed. Another 40 died on Tuesday. According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 people have died since 15 March, including 300 children and teenagers, at the hands of the military and the Security Forces.

Government sources also speak of 1,100 soldiers and members of the Security Forces killed by the rebels, especially the Free Syrian Army, which is headquartered in Antakya (a city now under Turkey, but Syrian before WW2). Yesterday, funerals were held for 17 soldiers (including a general) and police officers. Assad’s recent claim on ABCNews that more pro-regime people have died is not very credible.

On Monday, Election Day, US-born blogger Razan Ghazzawi, 31, was formally charged with inciting confessional violence, spreading false information and attacks against the national sentiment because her blog published news about human rights violations in the country. She had been arrested on 4 December on the border with Jordan on her way to a conference on freedom of information in Amman.

Last night, an Ecumenical and “patriotic” Meeting Prayer was held in the Patriarchal Greek-Melkite cathedral of Damascus, in favour of peace in Syria. Representatives of the country’s Catholic and Orthodox Churches took part in the ceremony.

In his address, Melkite Greek Patriarch Gregorios III reiterated the loyalty of all Christian Churches to Syria and their unanimous desire to work for national unity and coexistence between Christian and Muslim citizens, rejecting all forms of foreign intervention to solve the current crisis.
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