News / Middle East

    Syria Election: Experts Weigh In

    A man on a motorcycle rides past a poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on a wall in the pro-government al-Zahraa neighbourhood in Homs May 15, 2014. Despite the carnage and loss of swathes of territory in the north and east to insurgents, S
    A man on a motorcycle rides past a poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on a wall in the pro-government al-Zahraa neighbourhood in Homs May 15, 2014. Despite the carnage and loss of swathes of territory in the north and east to insurgents, S
    Cecily Hilleary
    VOA reached out to political analysts, bloggers, activists, opposition members and humanitarian workers to comment on this week's presidential election in Syria.

    Representatives of the Syrian government did not respond to requests for comments.

     
    Zaher SahloulZaher Sahloul
    x
    Zaher Sahloul
    Zaher Sahloul

    Zaher Sahloul, M.D., President, Syrian American Medical Society:
     
    "Election? What a farce. Assad will probably win his third election with flying colors. Syrians who are lucky enough to stay alive or be spared from displacement will have no choice but to vote, and vote frequently, for the ‘exceptional' leader. Non-Syrians, i.e., from Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, will probably participate in the ‘historic’ vote to compensate for the 4 million refugees and 7 million displaced Syrians. Assad will win probably by less than 99 percent but more than 90 percent because he cares about his ‘democratic’ image. He is probably thinking that by being reelected for another seven years he will drive the nail deep in the heart of the revolution. History will remember him as the leader who ruined his country and destroyed in three years what had been built in 50 years. Syria as we know it has gone forever because of his ‘wise’ leadership.

    Ziad Fadel, Attorney, blog author:

    "The people of Syria have opted, through the representative People's Assembly, to have a constititution requiring direct election of the president of the republic within 60 to 90 days of the end of the sitting president's term of office. This is a decision of a sovereign nation and member state of the United Nations.

    "That nations opposed to our president which are bent on ousting him in violation of the U.N. Charter and other statutes declare our elections a 'charade' points an accusatory finger at their hypocrisies.

    "If our president, Dr. Assad, is going to be elected by a plurality, then, that is the desire of the Syrian people in a democratic environment which would be supported by so-called democratic Western nations but for the obvious double standards. 

    "Syria is free of Western influence when it comes to her leadership.  We will not be swayed by nations like France, which murdered over 1.5 million Arabs in their fight for independence, or Britain whose legacy of slaughter rivals Germany's, or the United States which killed over one million Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in wars now declared to have been misguided or plainly malicious.  Our elections will continue despite the groans of those whose hands are stained with the blood of innocent Syrians and the Syrian people will emerge victorious."
     
    Jihad MakdissiJihad Makdissi
    x
    Jihad Makdissi
    Jihad Makdissi

    Jihad Makdissi, former spokesman for the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, now working as a political consultant and teaching in Dubai, UAE:

    "In times of national crisis and wars, elections can be used as an honorable exit to solve political contentions and disputes. Unfortunately in Syria it is seen by many as a show of defiance that would undermine what is left of the Geneva Process that calls for power-sharing in the country and that is endorsed by both sides.”

     
    "Idris," prominent Syrian opposition activist in exile. who asked his name not be used for fear if repression: 
     
    "You know, dictators are brought up to be egotistical. The entire world revolves around them. As they rule, they become more self-centric as people pay lip service to them. Assad since day one of the revolution viewed the revolution as a personal insult against him as a person. It showed him as incompetent so that hurt his pride, and he then took revenge and destroyed Syria. So 100,000 are dead because of an ego and millions displaced, and all this happened not because of him but rather because of the inaction of the international community. It seems all states have interests in seeing Syria burned."
     
    Joshua LandisJoshua Landis
    x
    Joshua Landis
    Joshua Landis

    Joshua Landis, Director of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oklahoma, blog author, Syria Comment:

    "Assad goes through the charade of elections for two reasons:  One, It is required by the constitution. The constitution stipulates that every seven years the leader of the Baath Party will be elected as president.

    "Secondly, the process of electioneering, with roadside signs, banners, TV adds, local hufles, or street parties, in Assad's honor and all the notables of Syrian society parading their support for the president.  These create an aura of leadership and invincibility which is part of za'ama, or 'leadership' in Syrian Arab culture. The public show of support creates an aura of invincibility and power.

     
    Joshua StacherJoshua Stacher
    x
    Joshua Stacher
    Joshua Stacher

    Joshua Stacher, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kent State University, author of Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria:
     
    Obviously, this election serves some sort of purpose for the internal regime, because they could just as easily not hold it, and it would not change anything.  Basically, there are two reasons why they are having it: One, it’s an internal power dynamic.  It allows for the constituent parts of the regime, like the parties, the security services, local strongmen in areas outside the capital to reaffirm their solidarity with President Al-Assad.  It allows them to line up and get patronage…Two, it sends a message to Syrian opposition, inside and outside: 'Look. We can fight a civil war for three years and we can still hold a rigged election, and there is nothing you can do about it…do you really think you can overthrow us?'"

    Bente SchellerBente Scheller
    x
    Bente Scheller
    Bente Scheller

    Bente Scheller, Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation's Beirut-based Middle East office and author of The Wisdom of Syria's Waiting Game: Foreign Policy under the Assads:

    “When Assad earlier this year hinted at getting ready for elections, this was a message to his adversaries and supporters. Russia back then said they did not find it 'helpful' and I think Assad - though being heavily dependent on Russia - wanted to demonstrate he is not Moscow's puppet. Now..Assad has turned so much into a symbol that Russia might not be as willing as earlier to let him go and be replaced by someone else from the regime...On the domestic side, even some of his supporters in the business community are taken aback by the campaign. Retaking Homs was one thing, but the regime talking about a prosperous tourism season in that city this summer is too much for many because of the incredible harm inflicted on its citizens and the infrastructure.”
     
    Sawsan JabriSawsan Jabri
    x
    Sawsan Jabri
    Sawsan Jabri


    Sawsan Jabri, activist, former spokeswoman for the Syrian Expatriates Organization:

    "Regardless of Assad’s illegitimate inheritance of power in 2000--which was unconstitutional on many levels, for him to be re-considered as a presidential candidate after the three bloodiest years in Syria’s modern history is the most egregious situation Syrians have to encounter. It’s just an extension of time for more killing. The UN, US, and EU have stressed more than one time that any resolution toward peace in Syria mandates as a prequisite that Assad be ousted. It is time to restore the viability of Syria without Assad. Assad hads failed to listen to people's demands peacefully, instigated sectarian conflict, promoted the infiltration of extremists in Syria and has opened Syria to the despotic militias of Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq and Russia. He has lost his legitimacy as current president, so it is extremely ridiculous to revive his legitimacy through this coming election."
     
    Ammar ZakariaAmmar Zakaria
    x
    Ammar Zakaria
    Ammar Zakaria

    Ammar Zakaria, M.D., Anesthesiologist, former Syrian army officer, now with the Aleppo City Medical Council, a humanitarian group that coodinates health care in field hospitals in Aleppo:

    "If I have to say anything about the coming 'bloody election,' it is that we should focus on the presidential election propaganda [slogan] Sawa, which means 'Together.'  So let us together glance at Bashar's achievements during his term of ruling Syria (excluding the inherited presidential position):  Inflation has swelled by 350 percent; the regime burked the opposition through arrest, torture and murder; more than 250,000 persons are dead, 300,000 arrested and more than 7 million are refugees inside Syria or outside in the neighboring countries; and Mr. Lakhdar Ibrahimi, the UN envoy, and Kofi Annan before him resigned because they failed to convince Bashar to stop killing Syrian people and to leave Syria.

    "So, for God's sake, who would be insane enough to accept such achievements and stand with Bashar ‘together’”?

    Some Syrians have taken to ridiculing Assad's campaign slogan across social media, as the Storify below demonstrates:
     
    Error rendering storify.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.