World

Syria Sets Date For (Probably Meaningless) Election

For the first time, multiple presidential candidates are allowed on the ballot, but the requirements for candidacy bar most opposition leaders.

Syria Sets Date For (Probably Meaningless) Election
Instagram / syrianpresidency

​Syria has set a date for its upcoming presidential election — not that it matters. 

When Syrians head to the polls June 3, their options will be limited. That is, if they exist at all. (Via Press TV)

Although President Bashar al-Assad hasn't said yet whether he'll run for another seven-year term, there's little doubt among observers that he will. (Via Fox News)

​​After all, he does seem to have a knack for campaigning — winning a stunning 97 percent of the vote in 2000 and a whopping 98 percent in 2007. (Via Eretz Zen

Then again, that's not much of a feat when you're the only one running. Bashar al-Assad, like his father before him, has always run unopposed. But this year, things — at least in theory — could be different.

In March, Syria's parliament unanimously adopted a law allowing for multiple candidates on the ballot. (Via The Times of Israel

Which sounds like a great step toward free and fair elections — except when you consider that virtually any challenger from Syria's opposition would be barred from running.

Under the law, candidates must be born to Syrian parents, have only Syrian nationality, and — here's the rub —they're required to have lived in Syria for the past 10 years. Members of Syria's main opposition group are currently based outside the country. (Via Flickr / Syriana2011)  

Oh, and lest we forget, anyone who wants to challenge Assad needs the backing of at least 35 lawmakers from Assad's own party. (Via Euronews

And consider, as The Christian Science Monitor notes, Syrians that live in opposition-held parts of the country won't be able to vote. Same goes for the nearly 3 million people who have fled the country.

Opposition groups have called the upcoming election a "parody of democracy" and have hinted it could undermine efforts to negotiate a peace settlement.

But Damascus doesn't seem to mind. Foreign Policy's David Kenner writes this election couldn't come at a better time for Assad. "Supporters … see the election as a way to underscore that the political structures dominated by Assad are still in place, and have survived the three-year insurgency."

Meanwhile, journalists on Twitter had fun with the very notion of an election organized by the Assad regime featuring a serious challenger whose last name wasn't Assad. 

Of course, it's no laughing matter for the millions of Syrians whose lives have been ripped apart by the now-three year long war — which began, by the way, as peaceful protests against Assad's rule. (Via ITN

But despite the war zone in his own backyard, Assad was recently able to fit a campaign-like event into schedule — stopping by the Christian town of Maalula for photo ops on Easter. (Via Channel 4)