Syrians in Jordan vote in presidential election

تم نشره في Thu 29 May / May 2014. 01:33 AM - آخر تعديل في Thu 29 May / May 2014. 05:53 PM
  • This photo, taken on May 28, shows a demonstrator in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman during presidential elections voting (Photo by Muhammad Abu Ghoush)
  • This May 28 photo shows a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad supporter with a ballot card marked with a vote for Assad in Amman (Photo by Muhammad Abu Ghoush)
  • Syrians vote in their presidential elections on May 28 in Amman (Photo by Muhammad Abu Ghoush)

By Elisa Oddone

AMMAN – Syria’s presidential election began for citizens abroad on Wednesday, a vote all but certain to give Bashar al-Assad a third seven-year term, shrugging off opposition and seeking to extend his hold on power while drawing the ire of opponents.

Syrians residing in Jordan are allowed to cast ballots at their embassy — as long as they have not left the country illegally, bypassing official routes, as many of the about 1.3 million refugees have. Voting in Syria is due on June 3.

Five hours of voting in Amman saw a heavy turnout, with about 10,000 Syrians casting their ballots, officials told al-Ghad.

Hundreds queued in front of their embassy to cast their votes in the presidential election that Assad is widely expected to win by a landslide with US-educated economist and former Syrian junior minister Hassan al-Nouri, and Syrian lawmaker Maher Hajjar his sole rivals and widely unknown to the voters.

Assad has ruled Syria since taking over from his late father in 2000.

“I came here to cast my ballot for President Bashar al-Assad as he is the only hope for Syria. We need him to have a unified country again,” Mahad Midan, 31, accountant in an import-export company in Jordan told al-Ghad.

Twenty-year old Fatima from Damascus said Syrians want a president who is purely Syrian; of Syrian origin and neither backed by the Gulf States nor by the West, therefore her vote went to Assad.

Rules for presidential candidates have prevented many of Assad's rivals who live in exile to run in the election.

According to Syria’s legislation and recent amendments, candidates must have kept continuous, permanent residence in Syria for a period of no less than 10 years at the time of seeking candidacy, be at least 40 years old, only hold Syrian citizenship, be a child of Syrian citizens and married only to a Syrian citizen, and have a clear criminal record.

No one in the opposition had announced any intention to run against Assad.

“I came here to express my opinion,” Mohammad Suhele from Syria’s north-central city of Ar-Raqqah, told al-Ghad.

“I gave my vote to President Bashar Assad since he is the only one capable of keeping the country safe. If he goes, things would fall apart. If Bashar remains in power, Syria would be restored to stability but if he goes, we would have ideological disputes inside the country. No one cares about Syria but Assad,” Suhele said.

 

The student, who has lived in Jordan for the past four years, saw the Free Syrian Army and Islamist groups as robbers and was confident Syria would come back to the country it was before within one to two years.

“There is no problem in Syria whatsoever. It is safe, the only turmoil is where the Free Syrian Army and Islamist groups are active. I ask wanted people who found refuge in neighboring countries to go back to Syria and turn themselves in. The authorities would be lenient toward them.”

The over three-year-old uprising against Assad has so far killed more than 160,000 people, displace millions and caused the government to lose control over large swathes of the country’s territory.

About 200 Jordanian policemen and security forces were deployed in front of the election flashpoint in Amman to prevent clashes between voters and protesters against the legitimacy of the election.

No incidents were reported and protests against the legitimacy of the Syrian election and Assad's rule remained peaceful and isolated a few paces from the embassy.

Anti-Assad activist Feraz Duma told al-Ghad he was not voting today as the election was a joke.

“Regardless if we vote Bashar or not, he will win. Many Syrians are casting their votes for Assad today since they might enjoy some benefit from the regime, were forced to do so by either their families, or because they receive a stamp on their passports proving they have casted their votes, thus would help when they get back to Syria”.

“Assad will win, nothing will change, but violence and war will continue regardless the result of the election,” he added.

Around 200 Syrians chanting slogans such as: “We want freedom, we want Bashar to leave” and “a revolution for dignity, a revolution for Syria and freedom”, gathered near the embassy to state a clear “no” to the voting, president Assad, and the ongoing massacres in their country.

“This is not a legitimate election. There is no legitimacy for the regime to hold this election. This is a theatre play,” anti-Assad activist Abdul Jaleel Shaqaqi from Syria’s western city of Hama told al-Ghad, adding that there were three candidates but the people did not know them. “The truth is that there is Assad three times on the ballots”.

“People voting today might also agree on this election being a farce, nonetheless they are casting their ballots as they are scared of repercussions on their families in Syria, or that their permission to stay in the country might not be renovated. This is the regime of criminals that the international community is supporting” Shaqaqi said sporting a t-shirt reading “La” [no in Arabic] referring to the election’s lack of legitimacy.

Western and Gulf Arab countries supporting Assad’s opposition have referred to plans for an election as a "parody of democracy" earlier this year and said it would have affected efforts to negotiate a peace settlement.

Business student in Jordan, Ali, originally from Homs, said he voted for Assad today as voting is “something citizens must do for their countries”.

“Many people came here today and voted just to get their passport stamped, not to have any problems once back in Syria but this is not the right reason for casting votes. I hope some people came here today also to exercise their duty as citizens.”

“The best option to bring peace to Syria is having all people sitting together and talking. But if they are like today, just coming for their personal advantage, there would be no peace in Syria for a long time. Assad should still be the ruler but we also must take into account that maybe another 50 percent of the people would disagree, therefore we should all sit together and talk.”

The one day vote was due to conclude on Wednesday at 7:00pm but Syria's Higher Judicial Committee for Elections extended the voting time by five hours.

According to the Syrian state news agency SANA, the extension covered all embassies where voters were casting their ballots. 

Jordan expelled on Monday Syria's ambassador for  violating diplomatic protocol by posting repeated comments on social media criticizing the Kingdom and its Gulf allies, leading Damascus to retaliate by barring Jordan's top diplomat and stirring tensions between the two neighbors.

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