Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Bashar al-Assad to run for fourth term as president

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, April 22nd 2021 à 14:30 | Read 818 times

Bashar al-Assad is expected to win the next presidential election (photo: Syrian Presidency)
Bashar al-Assad is expected to win the next presidential election (photo: Syrian Presidency)
SYRIA. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Bashar al-Assad officially applied for the May 26, 2021 elections to be held to determine the next president of the Syrian Republic.

Theoretically, he still has two steps to take: to obtain the validation of his file by the High Constitutional Court and also to obtain the support of thirty-five deputies out of the 250 that make up the Parliament, which is largely devoted to the presidential party Baath. These two "tests" should be passed with ease, leaving Bashar al-Assad free to run for a fourth consecutive term. Although five other applications have also been registered so far, while the deadline for filing with the High Constitutional Court has been set for Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

Hammoudeh Sabbagh, Speaker of the People's Assembly (parliament), said Wednesday, April 21, 2011, that the High Constitutional Court had indeed notified him of three applications: Bashar al-Assad, Mohanad Nadim Shaaban and Mohammad Muwaffaq Sawwan. The previous Monday and Tuesday, Abdullah Salloum Abdullah, Mohammad Firas Yasin Rajjouh and Faten Ali Nahar had also applied for the presidency.


"A masquerade"

To qualify for the top job, one must be of Muslim religion, be born of Syrian nationality (and have only Syrian nationality) of parents who are themselves Syrian by birth, be at least forty years old, not be married to a foreigner and be settled for at least ten years, and continuously, in Syria.

De facto, this eliminates from this race, all opponents of the regime. One of them, Nasr Hariri, exiled in Turkey, posted a message on Twitter denouncing "a masquerade" and referring to "the disconnection of the regime from the realities of the Syrian people, who have revolted against it. Syrians living abroad will be able to vote on May 20, 2021 in embassies.

Reacting to the death, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, of the Syrian journalist-writer Michel Kilo, a refugee opponent in Paris, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs praised the virtues of this "major figure of the Syrian and Arab intellectual life (who) was committed early in the fight for democracy and defense of human rights in his country. And took the opportunity to clearly mark his position against the current regime: "the fight of Michel Kilo for a free, democratic, inclusive and rich Syria of all its components will survive him. In March 2021, Paris signed a joint statement with Italy, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom to indicate that this election would be "neither free nor fair" and insisting on the fact that "the political process, whatever it may be, needs the participation of all Syrians (...) so that all voices are heard.

In power since July 17, 2000, after succeeding his father Hafez el-Assad who died on June 10, 2000, the fifty-five year old head of state and trained ophthalmologist had to face, like other countries, his "Arab Spring" in March 2011. He violently repressed it (the UN counts 5,000 deaths and 14,000 arrests in 2011 alone). Bashar al-Assad subsequently also had to fight Daech - which had self-proclaimed a caliphate of up to 90,800 km² in January 2015 - and other rebel groups (notably the Arab-Kurdish force of the FDS) that had taken over a large part of Syrian territory.


Elections to be held in only 2/3 of the country

Bashar al-Assad, who has already been accused several times of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the United Nations, Amnesty International and several countries, as well as of using poison gas and violating international humanitarian law, faces new charges. Two days ago, four NGOs (Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Syrian Archive (SA), Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), and Civil Rights Defenders) filed charges in Sweden against more than a dozen Syrian regime officials (including its president) for chemical attacks in Eastern Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Sheikhoun in 2017.

In early April 2021, eighteen European foreign ministers issued a joint text stating: "We will not remain silent in the face of the abuses committed in Syria, for which the regime and its external supporters bear the main responsibility. Many of these crimes, including those committed by Daech and other armed groups, can be likened to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is therefore the responsibility of all to fight impunity for the perpetrators of these acts and to hold them accountable, whoever they may be."

A ceasefire, imposed by Russia and Turkey, has been in effect since March 6, 2020 and is often violated. The civil war is estimated to have killed some 388,652 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH). In November 2020, the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States affirmed their "strong support for a political solution to the Syrian crisis (...) the only way to bring peace, stability and security to the Syrian people in a sustainable way, and thus facilitate the withdrawal of all foreign forces that arrived in the country after 2011. This solution must preserve the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of Syria".

Damascus controls only a little over 60% of Syria according to the OSDH. The election will therefore be held only in this part of the country reconquered thanks to the massive military aid provided by Russia and Iran since 2015. The rebels still remain in control of the rebel enclave of Idleb in the northwest while Turkey occupies the northern border and the northeast is in the hands of Kurdish forces.

In the previous election in June 2014, the incumbent president won 88.7% of the vote when he was pitted against two opponents.
This vote was made possible by the provisions of the 2012 Constitution allowing the Syrian president to be designated by an election, which was previously done simply by referendum.
The el-Assad family has ruled the country for five decades.


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