On Sunday, the Syrians voted in the third parliamentary election since the country enacted its new constitution in 2011 to pick their representatives from 1656 candidates across the country.
Syrian media, mainly the official news agency SANA, massively covered the election by publishing photos and videos from the polling stations. They also talked to the citizens in a reflection of considerable turnout.
Judge Mukhles Ghaysiyeh, a member of the High Judicial Commission for Elections, referred to the people’s welcome of the election, saying that “no violations were recorded.”
The member of the HJCE told the media that the polling stations will be open until 7 PM. “We can extend the time for five hours if needed,” he further said.
The slogans of this year’s parliamentary election are “voting is your right”, “voting is your duty”, and “make a difference with your voice and your vote.” 7,277 polling stations were set up for the citizens to cast their votes.
According to the law, any Syrian above 18 has the right to register as a candidate in the parliamentary election. Article 8 of the law that was approved in 2016 gives the right to the police and military personnel to announce candidacy in the election.
In the last election, held in 2016, the ruling Baathist Party managed to win 200 of the 250 seats. The rest went to independent candidates.
While the parliamentary election is held every four years, the presidential election is held every seven years. President Bashar al-Assad, who assumed the office after his father’s death in 2000, won the third election in 2014 with nearly 88 percent to preside over the Arab country until 2021.
The election in Syria. What are the parliament’s duties and powers?
The key lawmaking body in Syria is the People’s Council. Up to 1970, its name was “Parliament of the Syrian Arab Republic” and then it was renamed. The lawmakers are elected for four years and any laws made by the president should be approved by the People’s Council.
According to article 71 of the Syrian constitution, the parliament has the power to name presidential candidates, pass laws, discuss government policy, approve national budget and development programs, and supervise foreign agreements on security and other sovereignty issues. It also watches treaties that give foreign firms and sides rights and privileges in the country.
The importance of the new parliament is that it will, according to Aljazeera news network, be tasked with approving a new constitution. If the new constitution is approved, Assad very likely will bid for prime minister post after his term as president ends in 2021.
As it was above-mentioned, over 7, 000 registered as candidates for the parliamentary race: 58 for Tartus, 20 for Sweida, 207 for Hasakah, 47 for Idlib, 102 for Homs, 217 for Latakia, 58 for Deir ex-Zor, 122 for Hama, 159 for Aleppo, 153 for Aleppo Suburbs, 253 for Damascus, 619 for Damascus Suburbs, 34 for Qunaitra, 37 for Raqqa, and 32 for Daraa.
Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs with consecutively 52, 29, and 23 seats have the largest representation in the parliament. Each of the three provinces has its own importance. Aleppo is the economic capital and Damascus the political capital of the country. Homs is the largest province in Syria stretching from the east to the west and the center of the country.
In Aleppo, the key lists are Al-Isalah and Al-Shahba. Over 90 percent of the Aleppo independent representatives are from these two lists.
Also, in the northern provinces and Kurdish-majority regions like Hasakah the government held elections despite the presence of pro-US militias and American forces, securing a victory for the central government as it moves its way to unify the country after nearly a decade of a terrorism war imposed on Damascus by foreign backers of a spectrum of terrorist groups.
The election is held amid easing war and spreading coronavirus
Since the start of the government conflict against the foreign-backed terrorists nine years ago, five elections– two parliamentary, two local, and one presidential– were organized. The Sunday election was the sixth one from 2011 to 2020.
Now the central government controls nearly 70 percent of the country’s territory. The rest is controlled by the US-supported Kurdish militias and Turkish-backed terrorists and armed opposition. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control northeastern Syria and Ankara-sponsored militias hold Idlib in northwestern Syria.
Over the past two years, the Syria army, backed by allies known as Axis of Resistance that includes Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, recaptured very important parts of Syria once held by ISIS terrorist organization and other takfiri militias, bringing back the security that is crucial for its aim of returning the refugees to their homes.
In late 2019, the Syrian army launched recapture operations in the northwest, managing to reclaim control over Eastern Ghouta and southern parts of Idlib, the last stronghold of the terrorists. So, amid big blows Assad government is dealing to the terrorist groups, the high turnout rate in the election can signal growing political support of people for the legitimate government in Damascus and mark another victory for the Syrians.
Hussein Arnous, the newly-appointed prime minister of Syria, said: “Today marks a political victory that is added to the military victories.”
The election was delayed twice amid surging coronavirus wave in the country. It was held after the government and health committees said measures were taken to make sure hygienic standards were met at the polling stations.
Wael Aazam, the election commission chief, said that the government took preventive measures through sanitizing the polling stations and providing face masks and gloves to the polling stations personnel. He went on that the organizers implemented the instructions that included considering social distancing among the voters and preventing assembly.
Caesar Act and the economic discourse of election
Syria’s preparation for reconstruction period amid hard economic conditions the people experienced over the past few months that included the unprecedented consumer price surges and national currency value loss of about 70 percent against the US dollar pushed the citizens to focus on the increased living costs and the critical economic conditions in the Sunday election.
One of the main reasons Syria unprecedentedly immersed into deteriorating economic conditions is the US-imposed sanctions under what the US Congress calls Caesar Act. The act bans any foreign investment and trade with Syria and thus hampers return to peace and stability.
That is why observers suggest that the election is influenced by economic slogans amid people’s expectations that the new parliament gives priority to the settlement of economic problems of the country.