Syria’s govt-sanctioned opposition names candidate

April 24, 2014 - 6:30:07 am

BEIRUT: A Syrian lawmaker has nominated himself for president, state media said yesterday, the first candidate in an election likely to cement President Bashar Al Assad’s rule over a country devastated by civil war.

Parliament this week set the election for June 3, a move Assad’s international opponents said was a “parody of democracy” that would undermine any chance of resolving the conflict through peace talks.

Assad has yet to formally declare his candidacy but his allies have voiced increasing confidence that he will run and win, after government forces scored several victories against rebels around Damascus and along the Lebanese border.

State media said Maher Abdel-Hafiz Hajjar — a member of the government-sanctioned opposition, as opposed to Western-backed opposition politicians in exile or the armed rebels Assad denounces as “terrorists” — had nominated himself. He is unlikely to pose a real challenge to Assad.

The Supreme Constitutional Court is accepting nominations until May 1. “Anyone who meets the conditions and submits a request for nomination to this court, we will accept this request and register it,” court spokesman Majid Khadra said. Hajjar, formerly a member of the Communist Party, won a parliamentary seat for the northern city of Aleppo in 2012 under the Popular Front for Change and Liberation list, Sana said.

Aleppo was Syria’s largest city before the war and a major commercial hub but is now divided between rebel and government forces. Much of the population has fled and many districts have been devastated by bombardment and fighting.