Syria’s presidential election

Syria will hold a presidential election after years of civil war

President Assad. Photo by AFP/Getty Images on ABC News.

2 minute read — By Derry Salter

On 26th May, Syria is to hold a presidential election after 10 years of war in the country.  However, this move is likely to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad expects no serious opposition, despite the ongoing conflict and worsening economic crisis the country faces.

Although this election may serve only to keep President Assad in power, it is a great step towards democracy after the decade of conflict, which has killed around 500,000 people.  The civil war started after peaceful pro-democracy protests were met with violent suppression from the military – with fighting spreading as both sides took arms.

The elected President will serve a seven-year-term, with prospective candidates given just over a month’s warning to register. Over half of the Syrian population have been displaced since the war broke out as a result of the Arab Spring; however, such people can still vote in the upcoming election in foreign embassies.

This is the second presidential election to take place since war broke out. The former election in 2014 was dismissed as illegitimate and undemocratic, with Assad winning 92% of the vote. However, this was the first time in decades that someone other than a member of the Assad family could run for president.

The shocking difference between the 2014 and current election is the stark contrast of violence levels. In 2014, those who opposed President Assad hoped he could be defeated or overthrown. However, this wish for an alternative leader has clearly moved further from democracy’s grasp. In January, the US accused Syria of deliberately delaying the draft of a new constitution to avoid having a 2021 election under UN supervision. It is clear Assad, who has ruled for 21 years, is uncertain on this seemingly democratic election.

In March, a UN special envoy to Syria claimed to see a “rare window of opportunity” for ceasefire. However, if President Assad remains in power, the path to democracy remains obscured.