Syrians vote for parliament as diplomacy struggles

76
Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 4:30 PM

The election is going ahead independently of a U. N.-led peace process aimed at finding a political solution to the five-year-long war. The government says it's being held on time in line with the constitution.

Syrians voted in a parliamentary election in government-held areas of the country on Wednesday in what voters called a indicate of support for President Bashar al-Assad, who's holding the poll in defiance of opponents seeking to oust him.

The election is going ahead independently of a U. N.-led peace process aimed at finding a political solution to the five-year-long war. The government says it's being held on time in line with the constitution. The opposition says the vote is illegitimate, while Britain and France dismissed it as "flimsy facade" and a "sham".

"We're voting for the sake of the Syrian people and for the sake of Assad. Assad is already powerful but these elections indicate that the people support him and sustain him," said Hadi Jumaa, a 19-year-old student, as he cast his ballot at his Univ halls of residence in Damascus.

Dozens queued to vote at one polling Sta where a portrait of Assad hung on the wall. Outside, some danced.

With his wife Asma at his side as he went to vote in Damascus, a smiling Assad told state TV that terrorism had been able to demolish much of Syria'south infrastructure but not Syria'south "social structure, the national identity". It was the first time he'd voted in a parliamentary election.

The conflict has killed more than two hundred fifty.000 and created millions of refugees, splintering Syria into a patchwork of areas controlled by the government, an array of rebels, a powerful Kurdish militia, and the Islamic State group. The government views all the groups fighting it as terrorists.

The government controls around one third of Syria, including the main cities of western Syria, residence to most of the people who haven't fled the country. The United Nations puts the no of refugees at 4.8 million.

With parliament elected every four years, it's the second parliamentary election held by the government in wartime. Assad was reelected head of state in a presidential election in two thousand-fourteenth.

Voters are to the chosen 250 MPs to parliament, which has number genuine power in Syria'south presidential system. The state is rallying them around the slogan "Your vote strengthens your steadfastness".

OPPOSITION SEES VOTE AS "THEATER"

The election coincides with the start of a second circular of U. N.-led peace talks in Geneva. The opposition delegation is due to meet U. N. messenger Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday. The government has said it'll be prepared to partake from Friday.

The diplomacy is struggling to create progress with number sign of compromise over the main issue dividing the sides: Assad'south future. The government had ruled out any discussion of the presidency ahead of the first circular of talks last month.

"These elections don't imply anything," said Asaad al-Zoubi, chief negotiator for the main opposition body, the High Negotiations Council. "They're illegitimate - theater for the sake of procrastination, theater through which the regime is trying to give itself a little legitimacy."

Foreign states opposed to Assad have said the vote is out of line with a U. N. Security Council resolution that calls for elections at the finish of an 18-month transition. His allies, notably Russia, declare it's in line with the constitution.

"The decision of the regime to keep elections is a measure of how divorced it's from reality. They cannot purchase back legitimacy by putting up a flimsy facade of democracy," said a spokesperson for the British government.

France said the elections were a "sham" organized by "an oppressive regime".

Russia, one of Assad'south main foreign allies, said however that the election was required to avert a power vacuum.

"There is understanding already, that a new constitution should emerge as a result of this political process, on the basis of which new, early elections are to be held," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news briefing.

"But before this happens, one should avert any valid vacuum or any vacuum in the sphere of executive power."

Syrians living in opposition-held areas dismissed the vote.

"We used to be forced to cast our vote in phony elections. Now, we're number longer obliged to. After all this killing they wish to create a play called elections," said Yousef Doumani, speaking from the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus.

But Shereen Sirmani, who fled to Damascus from the Islamic State-besieged city of Deir al-Zor four months ago, said the election was excellent for Syria.

"We hope they bring people together," she said. "We support Assad and these elections are a boost for him."

(Extra reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, and Tom Perry and Angus McDowall in Beirut; Writing by Tom Perry; editing by Giles Elgood)

READ ALSO
36.000 Verizon workers go on strike

36.000 Verizon workers go on strike

36.000 Verizon workers have walked off the work Wednesday after failing to reach a new work agreement.

45
three reasons Spotify could move from Sweden to NY

three reasons Spotify could move from Sweden to NY

Spotify has a problem with Sweden. So much so, it'south contemplating emotional to New York.

77
Al Jazeera America goes shadowy and CEO reflects: 'I believe we succeeded'

Al Jazeera America goes shadowy and CEO reflects: 'I believe we succeeded'

Al Jazeera America will wither to black on Tuesday night not even three years after it launched. But its CEO, Al Anstey, feels the news channel achieved something special.

51
PR is losing a Dr a day

PR is losing a Dr a day

Justin Maldonado learned that fact in the most tragic way possible. His uncle had a stroke in the summer of two thousand fourteen. The family rushed him to a local hospital in Coamo.

66