Syrian parliamentary elections underway in areas under government control
Polling stations will be open throughout the day today. The vote takes place in a third of the country, home to 60% of the population. The opposition deserts the polls. 3,500 candidates vying for 250 seats. The party of President Assad launches the slogan "The elections of resistance". The WFP underscores the importance of respite for the distribution of aid.
Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Polling stations for parliamentary elections have opened this morning In areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a vote that has been deserted by the opposition which considers them illegitimate.
Voting got underway at 7am in about a third of the country, home to 60% of the Syrian population. Polling stations will be open for 12 hours, provided that government officials do not decide to extend the opening hours "because of the crowds".
The vote coincided with the start of the second round of indirect UN brokered peace talks in Geneva (Switzerland). The goal is to end the conflict and ensure a permanent peace. However, the future of President Assad remains the stumbling block between the parties.
Returning to the vote today in Syria, analysts and experts predict an easy victory of the President’s Baath party guaranteeing his future control of Parliament. This is the second vote in the country since the war began in March 2011, which in five years has caused at least 270 thousand deaths and millions displaced, giving rise to an unprecedented humanitarian emergency.
11,341 candidates applied to compete in today’s elections for one of the 250 seats in Parliament. After an initial screening 3,500 people were chosen, while others have abandoned the race because - explains the head of the Electoral Commission Hisham al-Shaar – they knew "they have no chance of winning." The slogan used by the ruling party on billboards and campaign posters read: "The elections of resistance".
Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front the World Food Program (WFP) is warning that there is a renewed escalation of violence in the country, which threatens to undermine the fragile ceasefire in place since February 27. A new spiral of fighting could hamper the delivery of aid and food to areas long under siege, where the population is facing severe food difficulties.
In an interview with AFP Matthew Hollingworth stresses that the ceasefire "was important" because it gave people not only food but "also hope". The end of the truce, he adds, would "destroy this hope". Last month, thanks to the ceasefire (which does not concern the Islamic State and other extremist groups such as al Nusra Front), the United Nations has been able to deliver aid to 83 thousand people in the most vulnerable areas, much of 53 thousand in February when the conflict was still raging.
The senior UN official concludes that the governments of Germany, Russia, Italy, Holland and the United States have been the most committed to aid distribution.