From 7am today, Syrians are expected to stream out of their homes to elect a president — for the first time in 50 years. President Bashar Al Assad is holding elections amid a sustained insurgency that has killed more than 150,000 and thrust the West Asian country into a narrative of cruel dictatorship out to keep sticking to power. It is anybody’s guess that Assad will carry the day against all opposition — of which there is hardly any — today. He has only two frail opponents who sometimes peek out of election posters, which eulogise the son of former dictator Hafez Al Assad. Assad has been glued to power for close to fourteen years during which Syria has not made much progress. State power has been the leitmotif of Assad’s regime in which freedom comes at a heavy cost, which is often death.
So, the regime of Bashar Al Assad is giving its citizens an opportunity to vote for the presidency amid observers from Russia, North Korea and Iran which are no paragons of democracy. In a state of civil war, the country is holding the vote only in regime-held areas — which amounts to nothing more than a farce. A total of fifteen million citizens are eligible to exercise their franchise.
Dictatorial regimes thrive on fear. Such governments work to create fear in the minds of citizens by using state tools like the intelligence machinery and the police. In today’s Syria, anyone speaking against Assad is considered a traitor and tailed by secret police, which may go to any lengths to persecute the citizen. It is precisely what Assad’s intelligence agencies would have done ahead of the vote. Intimidation and the fear of retribution force citizens to vote for dictatorial regimes, which often see votes of over 90 percent for the incumbent.
Today’s election is set to re-elect Assad with a flourish, which the president needs to parade before the world as a show of legitimacy. But Assad lost legitimacy and the right to rule when thousands of innocent Syrians, including women and children, were killed in regime air strikes, bombings and other attacks.
Torture and state terror during the uprising have been commonplace. Most Syrians who go to vote today will have fear behind their minds and no alternative — but to vote for Assad. The regime has stonewalled world opinion against it to put up a show of legitimacy by saying that it is fighting terrorists being sent by foreign powers to destabilise the government. Assad refuses to acknowledge that the revolt against him has been triggered by an unsatisfied nation that kept on taking years of injustice and deprivation perpetrated by an exploitative state machinery. Lack of freedom, democracy and inadequate economic opportunities forced Syrians to rise against him. Assad should realise that the election will only stamp his authority on a failing nation temporarily and finally he will be brought to justice by his people.