President Bashar al-Assad is again running for another seven-year term as president. His opponent is Hassan al-Nouri, 54, a businessman who was educated in the United States (U.S.) at the University of Wisconsin.
Syrian rebels have expressed their strong skepticism of Nouri’s candidacy. They stated that the government is merely putting on a show for the people, implying that Nouri has been chosen by the government to “run as a candidate against Assad.” However, Nouri insists that his reputation for being a well-known member of society who comes from a large and wealthy family are indications that he is a legitimate candidate.
He stated that he is funding his own campaign which focuses on issues of economic reform and fighting corruption. His goals are to establish a free-market economy and help the middle class regenerate themselves from the hard impact the war has had on them.
Nouri stated that he does not oppose the Syrian government, but he does not agree with the way they have addressed the rebellion. He claims that he does not identify with either side in the civil war, rather he is representing a group that wants nothing more than peace and stability regardless of who the president is.
In regards to the method Nouri would choose to provide security for the citizens of the country, he stated that he would persist in a cease-fire and peace talks. He referenced the success that the government had in negotiating with rebels to retreat from Homs last month.
Nouri admits that it is likely that he will not win the candidacy. If Assad is the winner in his run for presidency, Syrians will be under his rule for another seven years. In the past three years since the start of the Syrian uprising, at least 150,000 people have been killed, a third of them civilians according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In addition, millions of Syrians have been displaced and have had to live in refugee camps in neighboring countries such as Jordan and Turkey.
In April on Easter Sunday, Assad visited the Christian town of Maaloula, which was back in government control after rebel forces were overpowered. During his visit he had told soldiers that he plans to continue forward in the civil war and defeat terrorism by hitting the opposition with an “iron fist.” During a stop in another town nearby, Ain Al Tina, Assad said that the war may be a long battle but they are not in fear of it and will rebuild the country, making it better than it was before.
Some may perceive such statements as indications that Assad is confident that he will be the chosen candidate in his run for presidency and in the end be the victor of the war. Fawaz Gerges, an expert on the Middle East at the London School of Economics said that Assad has not won thus far, he has merely survived. He pointed out that there is a difference between being able to withstand the “violent storm,” and overcoming the opposition. He further stated that although Al-Qaeda has caused a divide between the opposition, they continue to stand and may gain strength depending on how the U.S. and its allies choose to “play their cards.”
By Sarah Temori