Friday, April 20, 2007

Apathy Grows in Syria's election

While many of us are understandably more interested in the upcoming elections in France, this weekend Syrians also go to the polls. But apparently, according to the article below from the Financial Times, even the Syrians don't care and are no longer pretending to care about the results of a one-party election.
The meaning of elections in one-party states (Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the former Soviet Union) is becoming harder and harder to defend. Still, you will find those who think elections equal democracy. No. Elections occur only every few years, and many people do not vote. Democracy consists in resolving disputes peacefully, day after day, and by the actions of independent institutions. It is often jeopardized--by terrorism and its supporters who call it "resistance to occupation," and by cronyism and corruption, which erode democratic institutions. If the people of Syria ever become free, the elections will become meaningful. The infrastructure for meaningful elections exists.
--Wendy in Washington, D.C., where we are fighting for meaningful federal representation as well

Apathy grows in Syria's one-party poll
By Ferry Biedermann in Beirut

Published: April 19 2007 18:51 | Last updated: April 19 2007 18:51

Voter apathy may be a grand phrase when applied to elections for a rubber-stamp parliament in an effective one-party state. But when even Syria's government-controlled Tishreen newspaper sees fit to point out a distinct lack of "enthusiasm" for the coming elections, interest must be at rock-bottom.

"Nothing on the ground indicates that the Syrian people are showing enthusiasm for the forthcoming elections for the people's assembly," Tishreen noted this month. The daily ascribed the apathy to a lack of debate on issues that affect the public and unfamiliarity with the role of parliament.


Syrians, or rather a fraction of them if predictions are correct, will go to the polls on Sunday, inviting unfortunate comparisons with vibrant electoral processes in France and Nigeria which also hold presidential elections this weekend.

In Syria, voters will choose from almost 10,000 government-vetted candidates for 250 parliamentary seats, of which 170 are reserved for the ruling Ba'ath party and its allies. The other 80 go to independents, including many rich businessmen and industrialists who in practice do not dare diverge from the government line.

The authorities have cracked down hard on political opponents and human rights activists over the past year. Prominent writers such as Michel Kilo and human rights lawyers such as Anwar Bunni are still in jail, ostensibly for criticising the government's policies in Lebanon. Dissidents such as Kamal Labwani are still locked up after having had contacts with opposition groups abroad. Some have chosen exile and others have stopped speaking out.

It all seems part of a consolidation of power in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad, who inherited the mantle from his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000. Mr Assad is set to have himself reconfirmed as president later this year in a referendum in which he will be the only candidate.

The young ruler is regarded as having recovered from a wobbly period after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the not altogether voluntary withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005.

Full text (free) online at the Financial Times,,dwp_uuid=fc3334c0-2f7a-11da-8b51-00000e2511c8.html

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