Damascus for ‘free, transparent’ presidential vote

April 27, 2014 - 4:50:27 am

DAMASCUS: Syria said yesterday it aimed for a “free and transparent” presidential election, responding to opposition and Western criticism that the June 3 poll will be a parody of democracy.

So far, a businessman who studied in the US and an independent MP and former communist are the only two hopefuls to register their candidacy. President Bashar Al Assad has yet to announce his own candidacy.

“The Syrian presidency... maintains an equal distance from all candidates in order that Syrians can choose their... president freely and transparently,” a statement said. And it saluted the “democratic atmosphere” in which the two candidates had stepped forward.

Would-be candidates must win the support of at least 35 of Syria’s 250 MPs to do so. Of those, a full 160 are members of the Baath party, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist for nearly 50 years.

Under a new constitution adopted in 2012, the year after the country’s civil war erupted, those who have not lived in Syria continuously for the past 10 years are barred from standing. That effectively excludes most of the opposition. Previously, under the current president and his late father, only one candidate was presented, and his name submitted to a referendum. AFP