Syria will hold a presidential election next month on the 26th of May. The elected president will serve a 7 year term until 2028.
Current predictions suggest a likely win for incumbent President Bashar al-Assad, who has served since 2014. Assad received wide criticism after his first win, receiving 92% of the vote, in 2014. The poll was dismissed by political opponents, as well as many in the international community, as illegitimate.
Syrians abroad will be able to vote at their nearest embassy on May 20th, but many are choosing not to, considering the vote undemocratic. Abu Ali al-Hamoui, 39, called the election “just a vaudeville show” and is refusing to register. “They indoctrinate you to support the Baath Party ever since you’re in the first grade,” he added, clarifying that it is not worth voting when Assad is certain to win.
This is a sentiment shared by many western governments, who have denounced the vote and believe the results will be illegitimate. A spokesperson of the US State Department said: “The proposed Syrian presidential election this year will neither be free nor fair. In this environment, we do not assess this call for elections to be credible.”
A representative for the civil rights group Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity, Haya Atassi, said: “Many Syrians are afraid to go to the embassy – especially in Lebanon. You don’t know if your papers could be confiscated. People are afraid to pass through checkpoints, so how can they go to election centres?”
Despite these legitimacy concerns, a struggling economy, and ongoing civil conflict, Mr Assad looks likely to retain power for another 7 years. Following a 10 year conflict that has killed over 400,000 and displaced more than half the population, Syria’s government has control of most of the country’s main population centres. Despite this, Assad’s control of the country is still largely dependent on the support of Russia and Iran.