Damascus | Syrian citizens started Sunday to elect their deputies in a country ravaged by war, and full of an economic crisis, where the regime of Bashar al-Assad has consolidated his hold on the vast majority of the territory.
These are the third parliamentary elections since the start in 2011 of a conflict, having made over 380 000 people and caused the exodus of millions of people, while the regime and its pillars are stricken by western sanctions.
More than 7,400 voting stations have opened their doors at 7 a.m. (4 a.m. GMT) in the government areas, according to the electoral Commission. For the first time, the election will be held in former strongholds of the rebellion.
In Damascus, dozens of voters — some wearing masks to protect against the novel coronavirus, and respecting the measures of distancing — went to the polling stations, noted a correspondent of the AFP.
Hanan Sukriye, 29 years old, employed in the ministry of Finance, says vote for the first time in his life. “My vote alone will not make the difference, but if we meet, to choose good candidates, there will be a change,” she said.
Not far from the polling station, on the avenue of Baghdad in the syrian capital, volunteers have posted the programs and pictures of their candidates, trying to influence the choice of voters who flock to the polls.
On the eve of this election, one person was killed and another injured in the explosion of two bombs near a mosque in the southern suburbs of Damascus, according to the official Sana news agency.
The Baath party, in power since half a century, and intimately related to the clan Assad, has won usually the upper-hand of these laws, organized every four years to elect 250 deputies, while the majority of opponents live in exile, or in areas outside the control of Damascus.
Originally scheduled in April, the election was delayed twice because of the outbreak of coronavirus, which has infected 496 people and left 25 people dead in the regions of the regime, according to the official data.
Among the 1658 candidates are businessmen. For several weeks already, the streets of the capital are overrun by their portraits accompanied by slogans.
During the parliamentary elections of 2016, nearly nine million voters were called to vote and the participation rate was 57,56 %.
According to the election commission, the polling stations have been installed for the first time in the Ghouta orientale, ex-enclave insurgent at the gates of the capital. But also in of the reconquered territories in the province of Idleb, the last great bastion of jihadist and rebel of the North-West, which remains in the viewfinder of the plan.
Damascus has continued in recent years with the victories, thanks to the military support of Russia and Iran, up to regain control of more than 70 % of the country divided by the war.
Today, however, the programmes of the candidates are dominated by the economic and social issues, promising solutions, especially in the soaring prices and the rehabilitation of infrastructure.
“The mps will have to provide an exceptional effort to improve services to the population, claimed He, 31 years old, employed in a dental clinic.
For the past several months, the economy is in free fall, with an impairment history of the currency. More than 80 % of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the UN.
A crisis also accentuated by the sanctions of the law of Caesar, adopted by Washington in mid-June, is piggybacked with similar measures already imposed by the west.
Offices specific voting have been installed in different provinces to allow all displaced persons to vote for the candidates of their region of origin.
But the millions of Syrians abroad, a majority of them refugees, will not be able to participate in the elections at least to return.
20 years ago, Bashar al-Assad, then 34-year-old, had acceded to the supreme magistracy after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad.
After three decades of power without sharing his father, “Bashar” embodied a hope of change. Twenty years later, his regime is treated as pariah on the international scene.