Syria Holds Presidential Election Amid Civil War

Syrians are voting in government-controlled areas of the country Tuesday in a presidential election widely expected to be won by President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian opposition, rebel fighters, and Western states have dismissed the election as a farce. Assad, seeking a third seven-year term in office, and his wife Asma cast their votes in Damascus, ...

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

Syrians are voting in government-controlled areas of the country Tuesday in a presidential election widely expected to be won by President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian opposition, rebel fighters, and Western states have dismissed the election as a farce. Assad, seeking a third seven-year term in office, and his wife Asma cast their votes in Damascus, while fighting continued outside the capital and across the country. Syrian officials predicted high turnout, and Information Minister Omran Zoabi said, "The size of the turnout is a political message." However, some Syrians reported being forced to go to the polls and feeling pressured to vote for Assad. Residents in rebel-held areas, where polling will not take place, said the election was meaningless calling Assad a "butcher."

Headlines

Libya's new Prime Minister Ahmed Maitiq has taken office though the outgoing premier, Abdullah al-Thinni, had refused to step down. Government forces and Houthi fighters agreed on a cease-fire after clashes killed at least 120 people in northern Yemen Monday. Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef has canceled his TV show "The Program" saying the climate in Egypt is not suitable and over security concerns. Israel said it is "deeply disappointed" after the U.S. State Department announced it will work with and fund the new Palestinian unity government. Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man who they said had shot at soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint, however the family of the man denies he opened fire.

Syrians are voting in government-controlled areas of the country Tuesday in a presidential election widely expected to be won by President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian opposition, rebel fighters, and Western states have dismissed the election as a farce. Assad, seeking a third seven-year term in office, and his wife Asma cast their votes in Damascus, while fighting continued outside the capital and across the country. Syrian officials predicted high turnout, and Information Minister Omran Zoabi said, "The size of the turnout is a political message." However, some Syrians reported being forced to go to the polls and feeling pressured to vote for Assad. Residents in rebel-held areas, where polling will not take place, said the election was meaningless calling Assad a "butcher."

Headlines

  • Libya’s new Prime Minister Ahmed Maitiq has taken office though the outgoing premier, Abdullah al-Thinni, had refused to step down.
  • Government forces and Houthi fighters agreed on a cease-fire after clashes killed at least 120 people in northern Yemen Monday.
  • Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef has canceled his TV show "The Program" saying the climate in Egypt is not suitable and over security concerns.
  • Israel said it is "deeply disappointed" after the U.S. State Department announced it will work with and fund the new Palestinian unity government.
  • Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man who they said had shot at soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint, however the family of the man denies he opened fire.

Arguments and Analysis

Syrian presidential vote: What changes will it bring?‘ (Nicholas Blanford, The Christian Science Monitor)

"It means that the conflict is likely to endure for many more years. Assad will feel vindicated by his reelection and will likely reject any proposed meaningful negotiations with the opposition. 

On the battlefield, Assad’s forces will continue to systematically seize territory from the fragmented, poorly equipped armed opposition. The regime has regained control over the critical corridor linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast via Homs and has either pushed rebel forces away from the suburbs of Damascus or surrounded and bombed them in a brutal but effective strategy of ‘surrender or starve.’ The military is attempting to reverse recent rebel gains in the Golan Heights and Deraa province in the south and continues to chip away at rebel quarters of Aleppo."

A new political dilemma for Egypt’s ruling military‘ (Ellis Goldberg, The Washington Post)

"The 2013 coup may have exorcised the danger of a political party such as the Muslim Brotherhood subordinating the armed forces to its control, but it left other problems in its wake. Sisi himself, even if he came from the ranks of the military, was another kind of threat. Beside the Scylla of institutional independence (Mubarak and even the Muslim Brotherhood), Sisi threatened the Charybdis of charismatic independence. All that singing, dancing, chocolates and underwear: The Sisi mania.

That the turnout was low is another cause for relief. Sisi may worry and the broadcasters, flacks and intellectual hangers-on moan that Egyptians are now refusing to give Sisi their voices. But within much of the general staff, there may now be quiet jubilation. Sisi, whatever he had hoped six months ago, will not be able to free himself from SCAF or his fellow generals. They did not campaign for him, and unlike him, they can look forward to another election in four years in which, if necessary, a more plausible military candidate can challenge him."

— Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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