Syrians will conduct the first public opinion poll in seven years to elect a new president. This will not be an exciting day, because it is almost certain that the current President Bashar al-Assad will be able to serve another seven years.
Daisy Moore, a Middle Eastern journalist from the capital Damascus, said: “The whole city is full of Assad posters.” “For a few days, there are large gatherings on the streets. There are music and dancing everywhere. These are when I went to Syria. In the years, I have never seen it so vividly. People here are already celebrating his victory.”
With the support of powerful security agencies, the Assad Dynasty has been suppressing Syria for 50 years. Bashar al-Assad succeeded his late father Hafez in 2000 and won the majority of seats in the 2007 and 2014 general elections. Westerners say that opinion polls are unfree and unfair.
The question is whether the Damascus election celebrations really showed the will of the people, because these elections are also being criticized. According to Goos Hofstee, a Middle East expert at the Klingendale Institute, even if Syrians can go to a polling station today, there are two competitors. “This is a way for Assad to maintain the illusion of democracy.”
First, Hofsti emphasized that not all Syrians can vote, only those who live in areas controlled by Assad can vote. Therefore, Syrians who fled to opposition areas in Idlib province will not be able to participate in the elections. “This is not democratic in itself.”
Opposition candidates will get a few percent of the vote, but this is only a periodical.
In addition, the regime carefully selected two candidates for Assad. Only Syrians who have lived continuously in Syria for the past ten years can participate in elections. Moreover, they can only participate with the support of the Syrian parliament led by Assad’s Baath Party. Hofsti said: “The opposition candidate will get a few percent of the vote, but this is purely for this stage.”
Syrians fleeing the country can already vote at the embassy. But according to Hofstee, many of them are terrified. “They have to fill in various information checked by the Syrian Secret Service. Under the dictatorship, you dare not vote on the dictator. Many of them did not vote because of fear of retaliation against Syrian families.”
The economy is on the verge of collapse
Although there seems to be no doubt about the outcome of the election, the situation in Assad’s Syria is not good. After ten years of war, the country fell into ruins and the economy fell into a trough. Moore said: “The economy is worse than the wars of recent years.”
The sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union have dealt a heavy blow to the country. In addition, the international community does not want to help establish Syria when Assad is in power. The financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon also played a role. “The economies of Lebanon and Syria are very intertwined. The economic crisis in Lebanon has also caused the Syrian currency to plummet, and everything has become incredibly expensive.”
It can cause discomfort to the crowd. “In a bakery, you wait in line for an hour and a half to two hours to get a few loaves of bread. There are also long queues at gas stations because of a severe shortage of fuel. After ten years of war, it is finally safe on government territory, but The country’s economy is now on the verge of collapse,” Mohr explained.
However, the bad economic situation will not play a role in these elections. Hofsti said: “From a military point of view, Assad stands firmly in the saddle.” “He has regained control of most of Syria, and now few people will resist him. In addition, he has also gained Russia’s support.”
In addition, according to Hofstee, some Syrians are also afraid of alternatives. “Syrians have seen terrorist organizations like the Islamic State surface and know what it means. They worry that if Assad falls, these types of groups may return to power.”
Therefore, reporters rarely hear criticism from the government sector. “When I asked them about the election, some Syrians remained silent. This is the silence of many things.”