Activists: Syrians Boycott ‘Sham’ Parliamentary Election

Posted May 7th, 2012 at 4:05 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Syrian activists say people in rebellious towns and villages across the country have largely boycotted a government-run parliamentary election that major opposition groups dismissed as a sham.

The activists said streets were empty and shops were closed in the central town of Hama and other opposition strongholds, where residents staged a general strike to protest Monday's vote.

The election is the latest effort by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to show that a democratic reform process is under way in the country ruled by his family since the 1970s. Syrian state television showed voters casting ballots in the capital, Damascus, and elsewhere for the more than 7,000 candidates vying for seats in the 250-member parliament. State media later said voting proceeded “normally and quietly” and turnout was high.

Prominent Syrian opposition groups inside and outside the country said the vote had no credibility because of the Assad government's continued deadly crackdown on a 14-month-long uprising. A Syrian Kurdish opposition activist in the northeastern province of Hasaka told VOA's Kurdish service that most of his community boycotted the election. Fuad Alico called it a “fake process.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops killed at least six civilians in attacks around the country on Monday. In the deadliest incident, the group said security forces killed three people in a dawn raid in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. Casualty figures could not be independently confirmed.

Syrian government and rebel forces have been carrying out daily attacks on each other despite a U.N.-backed truce agreement that took effect last month.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the ongoing violence in Syria is “totally unacceptable and intolerable.” Speaking in Washington on Monday, he said the world body's priority is to fully deploy a 300-strong observer mission in Syria to try to salvage the truce. Only about 70 U.N. personnel have been sent to Syria so far.

In a separate statement released through his office, Mr. Ban also criticized the parliamentary election, saying it was not held under conditions that can lead Syria to a “genuine democratic future.” He repeated his call on all sides to stop the violence.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it “borders on ridiculous” for Syria to hold an election in a climate where the government continues to carry out “daily assaults on its own citizens,” as he put it.

A coalition led by Mr. Assad's Baath party has monopolized the Syrian parliament for decades, but a new constitution approved in a February referendum allowed for the creation of new political parties.

The government said at least seven new parties competed with the Ba'ath-led National Progressive Front for parliamentary seats, but the exiled opposition Syrian National Council dismissed those parties as “creations of the regime.”

Some voters in Damascus said they cast ballots out of a sense of duty. Others expressed hope that the election will lead to a positive change for the country.

But in centers of the revolt, residents displayed posters of activists killed by government forces, urging people to vote for the “martyrs” rather than the government-sanctioned candidates. Anti-Assad activists also posted videos on the Internet ridiculing the election. In some clips, people pretending to vote filled fake ballot boxes with spent bullet casings and mock voting papers bearing the names of people killed in the government crackdown.