Fateh Ali Nahar, the first genuinely potential female Presidential candidate in Syria’s history was one of the seven women out of 51 candidates to apply to contest the May 26 Syrian Presidential Election. However, Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court approved only three candidates – Bashar al Assad, and two other obscure figures; Abdullah Salloum Abdullah and Mahmoud Ahmad Marei. All remaining applications were rejected, the court cited them as “failing to meet legal and constitutional requirements”. Potential candidates who haven’t been residing in Syria in the past 10 years prior to elections or have been convicted of a crime or do not have parliamentary endorsement are lawfully banned from contesting the election.
Ironically, it is not necessary for voters to be living in Syria. Expatriates and Syrian refugees abroad can vote at their respective Syrian Embassy; however, Italy, US, UK and Germany denied the legitimacy of the elections and barred Syrians living in these countries from participating in the election. Failure to meet the UNSC Resolution 2254 that lists criteria for free and fair elections in Syria, has been cited by them as reason to denounce the election’s legitimacy. Meanwhile the election and its very predictable result have been gladly welcomed by Russia who called it a ‘sovereign and internal’ matter of Syria. Owing to a hard learned realisation of the unshakable control that President Assad holds in Syria, or whatever the reason, Arab countries, it seems, are gradually accepting the legitimacy of Bashar Al Assad’s Government. This has been increasingly evident from small steps such as the visit of Syria’s Tourism Minister to Riyadh during the run up to the Syrian elections, for a Tourism Conference, at the invitation of Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Ministry and the World Tourism Organisation.
The much anticipated election results gave Bashar al-Assad a 95 % vote share and ultimately a fourth term of his reign as the Syrian President. The flawed system and the weak opposition are the primary reasons for Syrians reelecting Assad possibly for another 7 years. The opposition struggles to find competent leadership, and in any case many of those who might have made credible candidates to stand against Bashar al Assad are living in exile abroad and their eligibility to stand is obstructed by the minimum 10 year residency criteria. This absence of any credible opposition has forced Syrians to regard Bashar al Assad as the only reasonable option. Syrian rebels backed by their own supporting nations are habituated to violence as the only way of dealing with problems. Negotiations and the importance of a political solution are not uppermost in their minds nor is it a priority for their endorsees.
While the outcome of the constitutional negotiations for Syria is still subject to discussion between Turkey, Iran and Russia, uncertainty looms over its prospects. Lack of participation of other parties vis-à-vis the West in these negotiations may mean that they obstruct plans for implementation of any constitutional plans in future. Until the foreign powers come to a mutually agreed conclusion as to the way forward, Syrians will just have to wait for circumstance to determine their fate. Amidst all the security and political chaos, the humanitarian aspect of this crisis during a pandemic seems to be on no one’s agenda. There is little, if any, sign of willingness of any party to put Syrian civilians at the forefront of solving the Syrian mess.