Syrians are heading to the polling stations to elect a new parliament as a new round of Syria peace talks kicks off in Geneva.
President Assad’s opponents and Western powers have denounced the poll as illegitimate.
The US has dismissed out of hand the Syrian poll to elect a new parliament saying it doesn’t reflect “the will of the people.” But in 2005 Washington welcomed voting in neighboring Iraq when the country was also gripped by war.
Voters on the territories occupied by terrorists can travel to the nearest polling station to cast their votes. Ballot boxes had to be brought in by helicopters to the blockaded city of Deir ez-Zor.
The voices can be cast at more than 7,000 polling stations. MPs for the 250-seat parliament will be elected out of 3,500 candidates. The voting is being hold in 13 Syrian provinces out of 15, as Raqqa and Idlib remain under terrorist control. An estimated 80 percent of the Syrian population lives on government controlled territories.
Results of the elections are expected to be made public Thursday.
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma have already cast their ballots in Damascus, national news agency SANA reported. The Syrian leader made no comments to the press.
The parliamentary elections in Syria occur every four years and the last time the voting took place, the civil war was already raging on. Damascus insists the vote is constitutional and the ongoing peace talks in Geneva have nothing to do with the expression of the will of the people. Members of the Syrian opposition backed by the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf have denounced the elections.
US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said that the US “would view those elections as not legitimate in the sense that they don’t represent… the will of the Syrian people.
“So, to hold parliamentary elections now, given the current circumstances, given the current conditions in the country, we believe is at best premature and not representative of the Syrian people,” Toner said.
Early last week Toner said that “a political process that reflects the desires and will of the Syrian people is what should ultimately decide the future leadership and the future government of Syria.”
French President Francois Hollande went as far as saying that”the idea that there could be elections is not just provocative but totally unrealistic. It would be proof that there are no negotiations or discussions [in Geneva].”
The spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova, on the contrary, noted in her Facebook account that the Syrian parliamentary election is a “major factor of stabilization in the country.” She also mentioned that the polling is absent from EU media coverage.
This isn’t the first case of an election in a war-torn country in recent history. In December 2005, two years into the US invasion in Syria’s neighbor Iraq, American forces organized parliamentary elections in that country. Washington presented that poll as a turning point on the way to settling the situation in an Iraq gripped by war.
“There is a lot of joy, as far as I’m concerned, in saying the Iraqi people accomplish this major milestone,” former US President George W. Bush said at the time.
Now, though, the US State Department refuses to acknowledge Damascus’ right to hold the scheduled elections.
“Whether the government is controlled by people in Washington is the determination of whether the election is legitimate, not whether they actually reflect the will of the people of that country,” former US diplomat Jim Jatras told RT.
“Everybody says, and this includes the US and our allies, ‘We want to see a democratic evolution in Syria, we want to see democracy in Syria.’ We should be welcoming any kind of election and progress toward democracy in the areas where it is possible under these conflict circumstances,” Jatras said.