The Syrian president swept the presidential elections with 95.1% of the vote, to the denunciation of the international community

Syrian election legitimises a fourth term for Bashar al-Assad

AFP/ LOUAI BESHARA - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C) and his wife Asma (R) cast their votes at a polling station in Douma, near Damascus, on May 26, 2021, as voting begins across Syria

The results of the Syrian elections have not taken anyone by surprise, the eternal president Bashar al-Asad renews a fourth mandate, sweeping the last elections with 95.1% of the votes. In this way, al-Asad manages to perpetuate his family's legacy for seven more years, which means that Syria will have been under the rule of the Alawite family for almost six decades. The Syrian leader has been winning elections since 2000, when his father Hafez died and handed over to his son.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about these elections is not the victory of Bashar al-Assad, which everyone predicted, but the result itself. In 2000 he received 97.1% of the vote, in 2007 he achieved a similar result with 97.6%, while in 2014 and in the midst of a civil war he obtained 88.7%, a more than suspicious result when the country was in the cruellest period of a war going on since 2011.

The 2014 elections were the first elections in which more candidates were allowed to participate. As a result of the protests that erupted in the country in the context of the Arab Spring and under strong international pressure, Bashar al-Assad decided to approve a new multi-party constitution. This amendment allowed 23 presidential candidates to register to run against al-Assad, 21 of whom were rejected by the Constitutional Court as they did not meet the rules for eligibility.

Atalayar_Siria Elecciones

Something similar has been repeated in these new presidential elections, although the constitution adopted in 2014 allows for an opposition to Bashar al-Assad, meeting the requirements set out is almost impossible unless you are al-Assad himself. Out of a list of 51 candidates, the Constitutional Court has only accepted three, and undoubtedly among those approved was Bashar al-Assad.

The other two candidates for the presidency were Abdullah Salum Abdullah of the Socialist Unionist Party (SUP) and former deputy cabinet minister and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei of the Democratic Arab Socialist Union (DASU), a Damascus-sanctioned opposition party. The main requirements for standing as a candidate are already extremely restrictive in that it was necessary to have lived continuously in Syria for at least 10 years, which means that opposition figures in exile are excluded. In addition, candidates also had to have the backing of at least 35 members of parliament, which is dominated by Assad's Bath party.

So seven years later the civilian population is back to square one, and it is with Bashar al-Assad as the only visible head of an election campaign with no real opposition. The president of the Assembly, Hammouda Sabbagh, announced yesterday the official results of the elections. According to the official SANA news agency, more than 14 million Syrians went to the polls, 13.5 million of whom voted for al-Assad, in an election with a turnout of 78.6%. Opponents Abdullah Salum Abdullah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei obtained 1.5% and 3.3% of the vote respectively.

Atalayar_Siria Elecciones

Bashar al-Assad is legitimised in power until 2028. A fourth term which, according to the constitution, should be his last. But it seems unlikely that in seven years' time al-Assad will simply relinquish control of the Syrian country. A clear example of this is the civil war that has engulfed the Arab country for more than 10 years. The president himself said he would "burn the country before he was overthrown". Not burned, but devastated, Bashar al-Assad has to face a country that is still immersed in a civil war that leaves chilling data with 11 million displaced people and hundreds of thousands of dead and missing.

Moreover, the international isolation to which the country has been subjected since the war began in 2011, as well as international sanctions, have only aggravated the precarious economic situation in the country, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has only worsened this situation. The value of the Syrian pound has plummeted on the black market, accelerated also by the financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon.

The country is still divided, the government does not control the entire territory. Although continuous military operations have allowed the al-Asad regime to recover most of the territory, areas such as Idlib and northeast Syria are still in the hands of Kurdish militias or rebel groups. In short, a complex situation that Bashar al-Assad will have to face without the support of the international community, which has branded the Syrian elections a "farce" and accused the Syrian president of "undermining efforts for a sustainable solution" in Syria.