Syria’s constitutional court selects two dark figures to run against Bashar al-Assad in the presidential election.
Syria’s top constitutional court has selected a former minister and member of the Damascus-tolerated opposition to face Bashar al-Assad in this month’s presidential election.
The body appointed by Assad on Monday approved three out of 51 candidates to run in the May 26 vote, including the same 55-year-old president, is expected to win a fourth term.
Jihad al-Laham, president of the court, said in a press conference broadcast on state television that Abdallah Salloum Abdallah, Minister of State from 2016 to 2020, had been approved to run for the presidency.
The third candidate was named Mahmoud Marei, a member of the so-called “tolerated opposition” that exiled opposition leaders had long described as an extension of the regime.
Damascus sees elections as the system of government that normally functions despite the war. The opposition and Western countries consider it so a farce to keep Assad in power indefinitely and start negotiations to end the conflict.
The other 48 applications were dismissed for “breaching constitutional and legal requirements,” the court president said, without detailing it. They have until May 7 to appeal.
Applicants had to obtain the support of at least 35 members of parliament, each of whom is only allowed to support one candidate.
Exiled members of the opposition are de facto ruled out by an electoral law that states that candidates must have lived in Syria continuously for at least the last ten years.
The election will be the second since the start of a ten-year conflict that killed more than 388,000 people and forced more than half of Syria’s pre-war population to flee their homes.
Damascus has invited lawmakers from allied countries such as Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela and Cuba to observe the electoral process.
In New York last week, Western members of the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, previously rejected the outcome of the May 26 poll, a position denounced by Russia as a “unacceptable.”
Al-Assad, who has been in power for 21 years, was elected in a referendum in 2000 and 2007. For the first multi-candidate poll in 2014, only two candidates were allowed in addition to Al-Assad, out of 24 candidates. . .
The campaign is scheduled to begin on May 11, meanwhile Syrians abroad can vote at their embassies on May 20th.
Al-Assad has taken steps in recent months to alleviate public dissatisfaction fueled by anger over eroding living conditions and the fall of the currency, including rising state wages, crackdown on currency speculators and rapprochement of the official exchange rate with the black market.
Opponents say some of the new measures, such as cheap loans, favor their politically and economically powerful allies, including members of their Alawite minority sect that dominate the state and security forces.
On Sunday, al-Assad issued an amnesty waiving sanctions against some dodgers, currency speculators, smugglers and petty criminals, whom relatives hope could lead to the release of some imprisoned civic activists in recent months.