Wide Turnout of Voters for Parliamentary Elections
Syrians headed to the ballot boxes today morning at 7:00 a.m. local time (4:00 GMT) as to exercise their right in electing the People’s Assembly (Parliament) members according the New Constitution adopted last February.
The Syrian streets, press, websites and social media reflected the flurry of the electoral propaganda, stopped at 7:00 am yesterday, which helped introduce the candidates, their platforms and statements to the electorate.
The political parties, trends and powers and independent candidates are taking part in the elections with electoral rolls, alliances or independently under a judicial supervision that ensures fairness, freedom and democracy for the electorate in choosing their representatives.
The Syrians hope that the elections will chart the future of Syria as the ballot box will reveal the popular support for the candidates regardless of their political or party affiliations.
Interior Minister, Chairman of Elections Higher Committee: Elections Proceeding Normally and Quietly
Chairman of Higher Committee for Elections, Judge Khalaf al-Azzawi, said that voting is proceeding normally and quietly.
In a statement to SANA during a tour of voting centers in Damascus, al-Azzawi said that there were some minor remarks that were made in some centers and that heads of elections committees were informed of them, adding that they ensured the availability of secret ink and private voting booths.
On voting in other governorates, al-Azzawi said that the Committee hasn’t received any complaint, objection or remark from judicial subcommittees in governorates regarding the voting process.
In turn, Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar affirmed that voting is proceeding normally, with voting centers witnessing considerable turnout, adding that there are no problems so far with the exception of some minor things that usually occur in elections.
Al-Abrash: Elections of People’s Assemply Actual Implementation of Party and Political Pluralism
Speaker of People’s Assembly Mahomud al-Abrash said that the elections came as an actual implementation of party and political pluralism stated in the new constitution.
He added that the increasing turnout stresses the Syrians’ desire to continue the reform process led by President Bashar al-Assad to build a renewed Syria.
Safar: People’s Assembly Will Have Important Role in Monitoring Government’s Performance
In a statement to the journalists at the voting center at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister Adel Safar said that the legislative elections mark an important and historic stage in Syria which is moving forward with the announced comprehensive reform program despite all conspiracies to hinder the development process.
He added that the elections helped enhance the principles of parliamentary life in the country, indicating that the People’s Assembly will have a pivotal role in monitoring the government’s performance.
Ministers, Patriarch Lahham, al-Baath Party Officials Cast Their Votes
The Ministers of Information, Tourism, Interior, Education, Health and Electricity cast their votes the elections.
Minister of Information Dr. Adnan Mahmoud said that the media and psychological warfare against Syria and the attempts to undermine the elections only managed to make Syrians more determined to participate actively in the elections.
In turn, Tourism Minister Lamia Assi said that these elections represent a major national responsibility for every Syria as it will affect the future generations, while Education Minister Saleh al-Rashed said that the elections affirm Syria’s democratic choice which is set against the other choices that are harmful to Syria and its people.
For his part, Health Minister Wael al-Halqi stressed the need for the new People’s Assembly to represent all spectrums of the Syrian society to enrich discussions, while Electricity Minister Imad Khamis affirmed that these elections are a pioneering step towards making Syria a role model for the region’s countries.
After voting, Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem, Patriarch Gregorious III Laham, said that these elections are a major touchstone for Syria both on the local level in order to ensure the success of national dialogue and on the international level to show its true, positive image.
He stressed the need for the new People’s Assembly to live up to the responsibilities it bears in defending the dignity, rights, demands and aspirations of citizens, particularly youths, hoping that all Syrians will unite to guarantee the success of reforms.
Assistant Secretary General of al-Baath Arab Socialist Party Abdullah al-Ahmar also cast his vote, along with Assistant Regional Secretary Mohammad Saiid Bkheitan and members of the Party’s Regional Leadership Haitham Sattayhi and Shahnaz Fakoush.
In Damascus, voter Osama Dleiqan, a student, called upon the parliamentarians of the new session to work on combating corruption and to focus on upgrading the living standards of citizens.
Nour al-Koja, a student, stressed the importance of activating the authorities, pointing out to the need for providing the youth with job opportunities.
Ghaitha Abu Hassan, a student, said that the elections represent the Syrian people’s insistence on the national unity, as they new PMs should propose new laws that cope with the stage.
Since the early morning, People of Aleppo headed to the poll centers to practice their right to vote and elect the candidate who will help them achieve their aspirations.
Engineers Shaza Muslim and Ayman Subhi Aljoj said that the participation in elections reflects the popular will and the unity of the Syrian people and their adherence to the reform and development process led by President Bashar al-Assad.
In turn, Ilham Sheikh Issa said that the participation in the parliamentary elections is a national duty and an opportunity for all candidates and voters to build a democratic future that strengthens national principles and protect the national unity and the rule of the law.
Citizen Toni Na’meh said that practicing the right to vote is important to stress national options in support of reforms led by President al-Assad within a transparent and free atmosphere.
Mohammad Abdullah said that the participations in elections is a message to the whole world that Syria is leading a historic change in the Arab region that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people in progress and prosperity.
In Quneitra province, Judge Hassan al-Said indicated that no violations have been committed during the electoral process to the moment.
Some voters said that they voted for candidates whose electoral program met their aspirations and will convey their problems to the Assembly.
People in Hasaka province came in groups to elect 14 candidates who will represent them at the Assembly.
Hasaka Governor, Mu’zi Salloum, said that the centers witnessed remarkable turnout since the morning, adding that the elections is a national right that reflects the spirit of national unity in Syria and the political pluralism whose representatives will convene at the Assembly and discuss plans to develop Syria in all domains.
Engineer Hassoun Faris said that the elections are the starting point towards the biggest democratic change in Syria. University student Amer Khaleifeh called for paying attention to the youth and women, providing job opportunities, reducing unemployment and combating corruption.
In Sweida province, Secretary of al-Baath Party Branch, Shebli Jannoud, said that the parliamentary elections crowned the process of comprehensive reforms in Syria, calling upon all people to participate in supporting the reforms and fortifying the homeland in the face of all hostile schemes.
In turn, Governor of Sweida, Malek Ali, stressed the importance of this day to build a renewed Syria, adding that the citizens are practicing their right to vote in a democratic atmosphere.
The elections are due to last until 22:00 pm , and then vote-counting would start in attendance of the candidates.
7,195 candidates , including 710 women, representing the social spectrum, 2632 of whom with university degrees, are competing through 12, 152 electoral centers for 250 parliamentary seats, 127 of which are allocated to peasants and laborers, in 15 electoral constituencies.
According to the General Elections’ Law, the number of citizens who completed 18 years of age and have the right to participate in the elections reached 14,788,644 including the expatriates; military members of Army and police don’t have the right to elect as long as they are in military service.
Election centers were also set up at the air, marine and land border crossings as to enable citizens leaving or arriving in Syria to practice their right to elect.
The Syrian TV is broadcasting live the ongoing elections from over 50 locations all over Syria, in addition to media coverage by correspondents of more than 200 Arab and foreign media outlets, not to mention 100 personalities from Arab and foreign countries.
For his part, Governor of Damascus Countryside, Hussein Makhlouf, stressed that the governorate has taken all procedures to boost the electoral process, hoping that lections would bring members who can express the aspirations of the people.
In Homs Province, officials stressed that citizens started to come to the poll centers from early in the morning to choose their representatives, pointing out that the electoral process is going on in a comfortable atmosphere.
In Tartous, Governor Atef Naddaf stressed the importance of taking part in the elections, noting that citizens should choose their representatives who can shoulder the responsibility of conveying the demands of citizens to the People’s Assembly.
Syria votes amid opposition boycott
Syria is electing its 250-strong parliament on Monday in the first democratic election in decades. More than 7,000 candidates, including 710 women, are competing for the seats. However many opposition groups decided to boycott the ballot.
It is the first time since the 1963 coup that Syrians are allowed to choose among members of different political parties and independent candidates to represent them. The change in electoral law was part of the constitutional reform, which President Bashar Assad’s government pushed forward in response to the rise of opposition forces.
RT’s Sara Firth spoke to Mohammad Louay Sari, one of the candidates, who feels he is the voice of the young and wants to bring that into the political sphere.
“Now in Syria we have some problem – it’s a problem of people wanting to make things really democratic. Everyone must go and choose someone who can speak about this problem for people in this parliament. I’m sure now we’ll make a new step about this problem in Syria,” the 30-year-old said.
The voting takes place amid shaky truce between governmental forces and the armed opposition. The latter refused to take part in the campaign, saying there is no way an election can be fair in the present Syria.
“It is really completely nonsense to arrange voting in the current circumstances in the country. The country cannot provide security for people in too many cities and villages and towns,” believes Abdul Aziz Alkhayer, speaker for the Syrian National Co-Ordination Committee.
RT went to Zabadani a town not far from Damascus, which is among those lacking proper law and order. Before the crisis it was a popular holiday spot. But over the course of the conflict it has seen fierce fighting, with control switching from the government to the Free Syrian Army and back again.
Anti-government sentiment remains strong in Zabadani.
“We want to fight the government. We don’t want to sit like this. No work, no safety. Maybe anytime the army comes in your house and take you – everyone sleeps outside their houses, some people sleep in the mountains,” a local resident, who asked not to show his face, told RT.
But not everyone wants to see the fighting go on. Many lives have been lost over the course of the conflict in Syria, and many people are now desperate to see all sides lay down their arms and resolve this conflict another way.
“Killing does not lead to a solution. Talking does. Dialogue does. Dialogue should start. I suppose that the minute this dialogue starts the violence will be less,” says George Jabour, former advisor for the Syrian government.
The opposition’s boycott of the elections has left little room for discussion here. Jabour believes the move is a mistake on their part. Participating and asking for international monitoring of the election would be a better solution. But the government shares the blame too, because it failed to encourage protesters to join it.
“Because of the loss of dialogue we are fighting each other not with words but with bullets. And this is sad,” he added.