As many had expected, Bashar al-Assad was reelected president by a landslide in Syria’s 2014 elections, which took place on Tuesday. Assad won 88.7 percent of the vote, Hassan al-Nouri received 4.3 percent and Maher Hajjar received 3.2 percent. Assad’s victory was announced in a televised address by Mohammad Jihad al-Laham, Parliament Speaker.
According to officials, the voter turnout was 73.4 percent which did not come as a surprise to the government. Prior to voting day, the head of the state news agency told Al Jazeera news that the government was expecting more than 50 percent in the turnout.
The locations of the polling stations may have had a large impact on the results of the election. The polling stations were placed only in government-controlled areas, which in total make up less than half of the country. Kurdish leaders were among those who disapproved of the elections, and therefore they did not partake in the voting and would not allow for polling stations to be placed in their territories. Also, the voter demographics excluded the millions of Syrians who have been displaced or who have left the country to escape the war. These refugees count for almost half of the country’s missing population. Some crossed the borders back into Syria to cast their votes, however, the majority of those living outside of the country were left unable to vote.
Prior to President Bashar al-Assad’s reelection, the opposition expressed strong skepticism of the elections, saying that the other candidates had been selected by the government to provide a mere illusion of democracy. One of the largest rebel groups, The Islamic Front, claimed that the government was using blackmail in forcing citizens to vote, however, the government has dismissed any claims that implied the elections were rigged. The fighting continued to persist following the election on Wednesday, resulting in 24 deaths countrywide.
In addition to the opposition within Syria, many other counties were in disagreement of the elections taking place. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out that it is unjust to have an election when millions of Syrians are not able to cast their votes. The U.S. State Department also made a similar statement, saying that Syria’s government approached the election process in such a way as to make it nearly impossible for the citizens to have a fair election. The European Union stated that the results of the election were not based on a truly democratic voting process. The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, had strongly advised the Syrian government against holding the elections, as it would be harmful to the political process as well as coming to a solution for the civil war.
This victory gives Assad another seven years in office and makes this his third term. Reelected, President Bashar al-Assad has sweeping powers according to Syria’s constitution, which was ratified in 2012. This allows the president the rights to decree laws, appoint members of the cabinet and the government, and dissolve the parliament.
By Sarah Temori