Polling Extended by 5 Hours in Syria's Controversial Wartime Presidential Vote

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  • W460
  • W460
  • W460

Syrians voted as fighting raged Tuesday in a presidential election in which Bashar Assad is looking to tighten his grip as his forces battle rebels in a devastating three-year war.

In the afternoon, the higher electoral commission extended voting by five hours "due to heavy turnout."

Assad is facing two little-known challengers and is expected to win, despite a massive rebellion and a war which the U.N. has warned is likely to drag on even longer as a result of the vote.

In Damascus, the atmosphere was surreal, with people voting as the sound of shelling and explosions punctuated pro-Assad songs heard playing in the streets.

Activists in flashpoint areas said the violence raged, with rebels raining mortars on parts of the capital firmly under government control and the air force striking opposition areas.

Assad and his British-born wife Asma cast their ballots in central Damascus, the president wearing a dark blue suit, the first lady a white blouse, a black business skirt and stiletto heels.

Billboards glorifying Assad cover the streets of Damascus although inside polling stations photographs of his two challengers -- Hassan al-Nouri and Maher al-Hajjar -- had been put up alongside the president's.

There was no voting in the roughly 60 percent of the country outside government control, including large areas of second city Aleppo.

Polling was held in the heart of third city Homs, in ruins after rebel forces pulled out last month following a destructive two-year siege.

At least 162,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against Assad's rule erupted in March 2011, and nearly half the population have fled their homes.

None of the voters questioned by Agence France Presse said they had voted for Assad's opponents.

Nadia Hazim said she would "vote for the president -- of course."

Hind al-Homsi, 46, said she had sliced her finger and left a bloody fingerprint on the circle underneath Assad's name.

"I want to vote in blood for the president. He is the best," she said.

In the central city of Homs, security forces deployed in strength a day after a truck bomb killed 10 people in the nearby countryside.

The government said more than 15 million Syrians were eligible to take part in the election, on top of the 200,000 who voted abroad last week.

Assad allies Iran, North Korea and Russia sent observers to monitor the election, but the opposition and NATO have both dubbed it a "farce."

The vote "does not fulfill international standards for free, fair and transparent elections and I am sure no (NATO) ally will recognize the outcome of these so-called elections," said the head of the military alliance, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile said security forces across the country "forced people to close their shops and to hang pictures of Assad on the shop windows."

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman added: "Fear of the regime, and specifically the threat of detention for non-voters, is pushing people to vote."

Despite the vote, there was not let-up in army attacks on rebel areas, with air raids pounding the towns of Daraya southwest of Damascus and Douma to its northeast, and fighting flaring east of the capital, activists said.

The United Nations has warned the election will only complicate efforts to relaunch peace talks after two rounds of abortive negotiations in Switzerland this year.

The exiled opposition has made Assad's departure from power a precondition for any settlement and his re-election for a new seven-year term is likely to scupper any hope of getting them back to the negotiating table any time soon.

"Dictators are not elected, they hold power by force and fear -- the only motivations that Syrians have to show up for this charade," opposition chief Ahmed Jarba wrote in the Washington Post.

Casting his ballot in Damascus, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said however that "a political solution to the Syrian crisis begins today."

Waddah Abed Rabbo, chief editor of pro-Assad newspaper al-Watan, has also argued the vote could facilitate a resumption of talks.

"In Geneva, the opposition made its rejection of Assad running in the presidential election a priority. Assad was a red line that blocked everything," he said.

"Now that he will be voted back in by a majority, there will be no objection by the authorities to discuss other issues."

Noah Bonsey of the International Crisis Group said the election was part of a broader government effort to portray Assad's eventual victory as inevitable but that it was likely only to prolong an increasingly bloody war.

"The regime can only gain ground after reducing it to rubble, and can only hold it in so far as it remains empty of its original inhabitants," said Bonsey.

"This was the regime's approach before the election and it remains so after it. It leads to continued war, not victory."

Comments 30
Missing karim. 03 June 2014, 07:30

3a2bel Saudi Arabia's presidential elections.

Oh wait.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 03 June 2014, 12:08

Karim - you are either a paid propagandist or an outright imbecile if you think this is a real election!

Missing lebcan 03 June 2014, 20:10

Naharnet I really do not agree with Mowaten at all BUT do not block his comments, Seriously!... let people respond to him OK... that will be easy for us.

Missing moonsear 03 June 2014, 15:39

3a2bel Lebnen....Oh Wait

Missing lebcan 03 June 2014, 20:08

LOL x10 what a joke like SISI LOL!!!!

Thumb toni.farris 03 June 2014, 23:43

In Syria:
The Syrian Mokhabarat put thousands of ASSad pictures everywhere.
The Syrian Mokhabarat rallies supporter for ASSad.
The Syrian Mokhabarat chooses words for the parrots who take to the streets.
The Syrian Mokhabarat choose songs which broadcasts on Radio’s and TV’s.
The Syrian Mokhabarat chooses which area to rallies the students.
The Syrian Mokhabarat forces people to carry pictures ASSad.
The Syrian Mokhabarat forces shop owners to paint their doors with ASSad portraits.
The Syrian Mokhabarat depicts ASSad as the idol of the masses.
The Syrian Mokhabarat depicts ASSad as the Savior of Syria and no one else.
The Syrian Mokhabarat threats people with starvation, and loss of jobs if they vote against ASSad.
The Syrian Mokhabarat chooses candidates, competitors and asks them to refrain from a specific speech in favor of ASSad.

Then comes the Syrian media and ask everyone to celebrate the wedding of “Democracy"! Is there a dimokhratetyee ?

Missing helicopter 03 June 2014, 07:38

Your enthusiastic support of Assad who occupied Lebanon and butchered tens of thousands of Lebanes makes me wonder which nation are you mowaten of.

Thumb liberty 04 June 2014, 06:53

It seems we owe our newly found independence to mowaten of iran who due to his heroics on the front lines secured the syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Shameless hypocrite

Thumb liberty 04 June 2014, 06:57

انتخابات هاتفية!
انتشرت عبر مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي صور عن طريقة انتخاب بشار الاسد, إذ تظهر هويات الاشخاص على الهواتف الجوالة, ويتم افراغ محتوياتها على الورق والاقتراع بها.
وبالتالي يمكن للناخب أن يرسل صورة بطاقته الشخصية لصديق, وهو ينتخب عنه وعن عائلته, ومن غير الضروري الحضور للمشاركة شخصياً بالانتخابات.

Default-user-icon Rambo (Guest) 03 June 2014, 09:37

Let the Butcher have his silly elections. They serve as a good distraction for the Rebels to blow up more of his soldiers.

Default-user-icon Rambo (Guest) 03 June 2014, 09:41

You just think the opposition is stupid to trust your dear leader. GTFO.

Thumb popeye 03 June 2014, 10:06

Preparations are underway for divine and glorious celebrations in Dahiyeh tonight and tomorrow. Arabic sweets and AK47s will be offered to just about anybody. Rooftops will be manned by saints in celebration demanding the liberation of Baabda and Bkirki.

Thumb canadianpaul 03 June 2014, 12:52

I'm hesitating between 92% and 98%, with 80% participation. What do you guys think?

Thumb popeye 03 June 2014, 12:57

southern, you are a disgrace to humanity and everything that is moral.

Thumb habib 03 June 2014, 13:31

Yi 3ala amtak

Thumb FlameCatcher 03 June 2014, 14:09

@Southern : If you believe in a global Takfiri plot, you are even dummer and more brainwashed than previously thought. Beyond any possible recovery !

PS : Hezbollah is the largest takfiri movement in the arab world !

Thumb FlameCatcher 03 June 2014, 17:31

@Southern : Instead of lying, please demonstrate my support for any kind of terrorism. You are bankrupt of arguments and need to revert to lies ?

HA has failed in every single way. When you need weapons to achieve your goals, it means you are a loser who's ideals and ideas cannot succeed. Thus the use of force, terror and threats.

Hassan Nasrallah is a terrorist, Hezbollah a terrorist takfiri problem. You are a blasphemy to Islam and Lebanon.

Thumb canadianpaul 03 June 2014, 14:21

When all arguments fail, call people names. That's very mature.

Default-user-icon Silence of the lambs (Guest) 03 June 2014, 15:49

why is southern never commenting on stories regarding lebanon's economy, society or politics granted his contract stipulates he will not post on stories where he cannot use words like takfiris or plot or takfiri plot.

Thumb galaxy 03 June 2014, 16:15

southern you never answered my question i poised several times:

Since you are a great believer in democracy Syrian and Iranian style, would you accept a referendum regarding your militia's existence and its weapons?

Answer and don't avoid the question..

Thumb iamymasterscard 03 June 2014, 16:18

Paint by numbers headlines

Assad Eyes Crushing Win in Syria Vote
Saddam Eyes Crushing Win in Iraq Vote
Qaddafi Eyes Crushing Win in Libya Vote
Mubarak Eyes Crushing Win in Egypt Vote
Boumediene Eyes Crushing Win in Algeria Vote
Ben Ali Eyes Crushing Win in Tunisia Vote
Ceausescu Eyes Crushing Win in Romania Vote
Hafez Eyes Crushing Win in Syria Vote

Missing peace 03 June 2014, 16:53

of course he will win... any dictator pretending to hold elections is always sure to be reelected with a massive percentage in its favor... whoever claim it is because people love him are either plain stupid or fanatics...

Missing peace 03 June 2014, 17:51

security is assured by the army not by a political party that pledged allegiance to a foreign country!!!

... any patriot would say that apart hezbi lovers who believe hezbollah is the state....

Missing peace 03 June 2014, 17:57

yes it could if hezbollah integrated the army and OBEYED it and only the army.... they decide in the place of the state of peace or war taking a nation hostage...

Missing peace 03 June 2014, 18:50

sorry but what you say "The Syrian regime allows most political parties" you are not correct....
as the parties allowed are CAREFULLY chosen and allowed by the regime... do not get blinded by the propaganda...

and for your second part i would add: remember all the previous dictatorships, comes a day as strong as they seem to be they suddenly collapse....

Thumb jabal10452 03 June 2014, 19:42

"Iran, North Korea and Russia sent observers to monitor the election"

Beacons of democracy, those. Now THAT will lend this election some legitimacy.

Missing lebcan 03 June 2014, 20:28

Seriously FUNNY !

Missing lebcan 03 June 2014, 20:38

No bigjohn, Baathists and KSA Iran are the same to me ...SMOKE & MIRRORS... they are bad for their people, its that simple... its their methods that are deferent ...
big john, FT, mawaten ...etc... and all brain washed sheep... is it possible at all you guys maybe can possibly see a glimmer of light and realize that there is not a good government out there at all?!
And the reason why so many of them survive (or come back) is simply because of people just too scared to cry foul... and sometimes i don't even blame them considering the tactics that are used to persuade them... Tfie!

Missing AnythingGoes 03 June 2014, 20:50

The polling was extended five hours so the voters who managed to only democratically vote twice can democratically vote a third time like everyone else, ain't democracy great.

Missing zahle_nights19 03 June 2014, 22:04

The joke of the century!!