Candidacy for Syria’s 26 May presidential elections has now been closed, with 51 competitors running for office. Syrian Minister of Information Imad Sarah told reporters that the country’s constitutional court will determine the contenders’ eligibility over the next 11 days.
Key opposition figures in exile are barred from the polling due to the requirements that candidates must have lived in Syria for at least the past 10 years and have the backing of a minimum of 35 members of parliament.
The polling is virtually certain to reinstate President Bashar al-Assad for a fourth term.
Top United Nations officials said this month that the election does not fulfil Security Council resolutions, which call for: a political process to end the conflict, a new constitution, and elections administered under UN supervision with the “highest standards of transparency and accountability.”
“These elections will neither be free nor fair. They will not legitimize the Assad regime,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council last month, on the 10th anniversary of the start of the pro-democracy protests that erupted into civil war.
Assad’s family and his Baath party have ruled Syria for five decades with the help of the security forces and the army, where his Alawite minority dominate. He has ruled the Arab Republic since 2000, succeeding his father who had seized power in a 1970 coup.
Syria’s multi-sided conflict, which began with a 2011 crackdown against anti-government protests, has drawn in world powers, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. The Assad regime has managed in recent years to recaptured most territory once held by rebels trying to topple him with help from allies, Russia and Iran.
Opposition and Western leaders have condemned the presidential election as a farce designed to cement authoritarian rule by Assad, whom they have long called to step down over allegations of having committed crimes against humanity.
The poll has also been dismissed by the mainstream Turkish-backed opposition alliance, whose forces control a swathe of territory in northwestern Syria where millions of civilians have fled to shelter from Assad’s bombing campaigns.
“We consider Assad‘s parliament to have no legitimacy, and this is a theatrical farce and a desperate effort to reinvent this criminal regime,” said prominent opposition figure Mustafa Sejari.
Assad’s supporters insist that Washington and its Western allies are seeking to bring Assad down through the imposition of crippling sanctions.
“Despite the expectations of Syria’s enemies, the presidential ballot will go ahead,” said Husam al Deen Khalsi, a politician from Latakia Province, a bastion of Assad’s Alawite sect of Shia Islam.
In a divergent unsubstantiated claim, Deen asserted that, “Our rulers have not followed Washington’s or Israel‘s dictates.”