07/20/2020, 12.44
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Millions of Syrians go to the polls. For the opposition in exile, it's a farce

Polling stations will be open from 7 am to 23 pm, including in newly liberated areas, like East Ghouta and parts of Idlib. For observers, the results are a foregone conclusion: The Baath Party will win hands down. The country’s disastrous economic situation is the result of war and sanctions. Some 80 per cent of Syrians live below the poverty line.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Millions of Syrians went to the polls yesterday to elect 250 Members of the People's Council (parliament). Several leaders of the exiled opposition branded the elections "a farce", as millions of voters are refugees abroad and are unable to participate.

Starting from 7 yesterday morning, until 11 pm, about 7,000 polling stations remained open for Syrians to cast their ballot. Many voters in spaced rows wore masks to prevent contagion.

President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma voted yesterday at the presidential palace, wearing a mask because of the COVID-19 epidemic (picture 3).

According to official figures, the country has successfully contained the pandemic so far with only 25 deaths and 496 cases.

Syria’s Parliament is elected every four years. This is the third time that Syrians vote during their country’s civil war, which has turned into an international conflict, starting in 2011.

The “democratic" game is show of popular support for the Baath Party, in power for about 50 years and for the Assad family, the party's pillar.

To boost the election’s "democratic" credentials, polling stations were set up in areas recently recaptured by the Syrian army from the opposition and extremist militias, including in East Ghouta and liberated parts of ​​Idlib.

For observers, the results are a foregone conclusion: The Baath Party will win hands down. Regime opponents have fled abroad and domestic opposition parties are very weak.

In the 2016 elections, when about 57.56 per cent of eligible voters participated, Baath won 80 per cent of the vote.

From exile in Turkey, opposition leader Nasr Al-Hariri said that “half the Syrian people have been forced to flee” and so could not vote. Thus, the vote is “a farce under security and military grip ... to form a sham parliament for the regime to use to pass legislation to serve the gang in power”.

Since violence first broke out in 2011, starting with protests against the Assad regime, the war has become a regional and international conflict, with the involvement of Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the United States, Russia, Lebanon (Hezbollah), and Israel.

Many millions of Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan) and about 380,000 people have died.

The country’s disastrous economic situation was one of the main issues in the election campaign, caused by years of war and western sanctions, boosted by new US sanctions.

The result is deprivation and widespread hunger, which affects the entire population. According to World Food Programme (WFP), at least 80 per cent of Syrians live below the poverty line.

Over the past year, food prices have risen 200 per cent%, 20 times more than pre-war prices.

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