Polling stations open for Syria’s parliamentary elections

Damascus, Jul 19 (efe-epa).- Polling stations opened in Syria on Sunday for parliamentary elections that will vote for the 250 members that make up the legislature under sanitary measures due to the coronavirus epidemic.

It’s the third such election since the start of the civil war in the country in 2011.

The Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections announced the opening of the 7,277 polling stations spread across government-controlled areas for voters choosing among 1,656 candidates, 200 of them women, state-run news agency SANA reported.

The stations will be open from 7 am to 7 pm, although Syria’s Information Minister Imad Sara told EFE on Saturday that the closing time could be extended.

Images published by the agency showed voters at the polling booths, some of them wearing masks, as the Syrian government announced that they were required to be worn as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus.

The elections, originally scheduled to be held in April, were postponed to May, and then to July 19 on account of the coronavirus crisis.

Polling is not being held in areas not controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including the Kurdish-administered northeast Syria as well as the northwest, which is the last insurgent stronghold in the country.

However, this is the first time that voting will take place in areas that were previously strongholds of insurgent factions as, since 2018, Assad with Russian support has recovered much of the territory.

The last parliamentary elections took place in April 2016 in all government-controlled areas and in all governorates of the country, except the northern Raqqa and Idlib, then controlled by the Islamic State terror group and by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, respectively.

On that occasion, 3,450 candidates stood for elections, but Assad’s Ba’ath Party took almost all the seats.

Since 2012, when the current constitution, which introduced a political system based on the principle of political pluralism, was adopted, the authorities have allowed parties other than Ba’ath to take part in legislative elections.

However, most of the Syrian opposition has been exiled since the popular uprising in 201 which, from 2012, turned into a civil war that has not yet ended.

The elections come as the country is experiencing one of its worst economic crises since the start of the conflict due to sanctions placed on it by Western countries.

Last month, Syria devalued its local currency by 44 percent as the United States implemented the Caesar Act directed against Assad and other Syrians, as well as the country’s main allies, Russia and Iran, and against all those who profit by participating in the reconstruction of the devastated nation. EFE-EPA


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