Syrian election over, results known beforehand
Polls to elect Syria’s 250-member parliament closed today. Ba’ath Party and its allies are guaranteed by law 170 seats. Opposition groups boycotted the elections amid criticism by pro-government papers.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Syrian elections ended today at 12 noon after registering a low turnout. Results are expected tomorrow.

The vote took place “in total freedom and transparency,” Syria’s state news agency SANA said today, but the names of the new lawmakers were already known well in advance, this according to Hassan Abdel-Azim, spokesman for six banned, but largely tolerated, parties.

Of the 250 seats up for grabs, 170 are reserved for the ruling National Progressive Front (NPF) coalition, up from 167 five years ago. Assad's Ba’ath party, which dominates the coalition, is guaranteed 131 seats, or 52 per cent of the total. The other 80 seats go to so-called independent candidates “close to the authorities” since opposition parties are not allowed to run.

These are the second parliamentary elections since Bashir al-Assad became president in 2000.

During the last Ba’ath Party congress in June 2005, delegates recommended an amendment to the 1973 election law to allow the creation of new parties, something that is still not allowed.

In January and February 2006 several reports appeared in the Syrian media on drafts in anticipation of a new “Parties Law”. According to the reports, the law was to have been adopted in April, 2006, but to date nothing has been enacted.

Criticism by the United States, which called the election a farce, was echoed in the official Syrian press as well.

The official Tishrin daily for example said last week that many candidates had no programme, vision or working plan for after the elections. Similarly, Al-Thawra pointed out that parliament does not control the government.