By Natalya Kovalenko
Parliamentary elections have been held in Syria. According to preliminary estimates, about 60% of the voters took part in the voting. For the first time in the last four decades, Syrians had an opportunity to form a multi-party National Council.
Over 12,000 polling stations opened in Syria on Monday. The local TV organised direct broadcasting from 50 of them. 200 foreign journalists covered the elections in many of the country’s cities. Police took special security measures around polling stations, so even the residents of Homs and Hama could take part in the elections without fear. “The most important thing for us was to ensure open and free elections,” the authorities emphasized.
7,195 candidates, 710 of whom were women, contested 250 Parliament seats of which 127 seats are usually assigned to workers’ representatives. Apart from the ruling Ba’ath Party of the Arab Socialist Revival and its ally, the National Progressive Front, seven out of nine recently formed parties and independent candidates from single-seat electoral districts also took part in the elections. Thus, a multi-party parliament could be formed in Syria for the first time in almost half a century, expert in Oriental studies Sergey Demidenko from the Institute of Strategic Assessments and Analysis says.
“The difference with these elections was that they were carried out in compliance with the new Constitution which does not contain a clause about the leading role of the Ba’ath party. All of the legal political forces have equal rights now, including opposition forces that are prepared for a dialogue with the authorities.”
As a result, the Ba’ath party which has been ruling the country for decades risks losing power. But the opponents of official Damascus would not be happy about this, President of the Institute of the Middle East Yevgeny Satanovsky says.
“The Ba’ath party will be losing its power gradually and this will be a process of evolution, not a collapse. At the same time, no matter how democratic the elections are, the regime’s opponents would only be pleased if President al-Assad and his family, and maybe all the Alawis were killed. In this respect, the elections will not be able to change anything.”
Announcer: What Damascus has called ‘the political birth of a new Syria’ the opposition described as ‘pure absurdity’. The opposition organised protests in Idlib and Hama on Monday, calling on people to boycott the elections. They called the newly elected MPs ‘the regime’s puppets’ and declared their resolution to form an ‘alternative’ parliament.