Anti-Assad allies rebuff Syrian presidential election plan

PARIS Thu Apr 3, 2014 6:56pm EDT

1 of 3. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are seen at one of the sites in Latakia mountains after taking control of it from rebel fighters April 3, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

Credit: Reuters/SANA/Handout

PARIS (Reuters) - International powers who support the Syrian opposition have firmly rebuffed any idea of a presidential election organized by the Syrian government in the midst of a civil war, describing the plans as a "parody of democracy" that would kill peace talks.

The Friends of Syria, an alliance of mainly Western and Gulf Arab countries, issued a statement on Thursday in light of recent developments in Syria, where there appears to be no end in sight after more than three years of conflict sparked by protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The government has made incremental gains in recent months, regaining the initiative in the conflict. Emboldened by failed peace talks in Geneva, and with the support of his allies Iran and Russia, Assad is looking increasingly likely to stand for a third term in July.

"Elections organized by the Assad regime would be a parody of democracy, would reveal the regime's rejection of the basis of the Geneva talks, and would deepen the division of Syria," said the 11-strong group, which includes the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

If Assad did run, in defiance of the opposition and Western leaders who have demanded he step down, that would end the U.N.-backed Geneva peace process, which was predicated on steps towards a democratic transition.

Syria's parliament set residency rules for presidential candidates in March, a move that would bar many of Assad's foes who live in exile.

"Recent actions by the Assad regime to pave the way for presidential elections in the coming months, including the promulgation of a new electoral law, have no credibility," the group said. "Bashar al-Assad intends these elections to sustain his dictatorship."

The group also said there was no legitimacy in an election conducted in the midst of a conflict, only in government-controlled areas, and with millions of Syrians disenfranchised, displaced from their homes, or in refugee camps.

The number of Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon officially topped 1 million on Thursday. Syrians have also fled to Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, and the official total of 2.6 million refugees - which understates the scale of the exodus - means Syrians will soon overtake Afghans as the world's biggest refugee population.

"An electoral process led by Assad, who the United Nations considers to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, mocks the innocent lives lost in the conflict," the group said.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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Comments (5)
longtail wrote:
I would have questioned how an elected president being the son of the previous president could represent real democracy but in view of the George Bushes I guess I won’t mention it.

Apr 03, 2014 6:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Dr_Steve wrote:
Hold on just a minute. I’m confused. Are we supporting al Qaeda in its war against Assad?

Apr 03, 2014 10:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RobertFrost wrote:
Why are the “international powers” who have been engaged in toppling the Syrian regime for three years and a few months against the forthcoming presidential elections?

Most likely that after the death, destruction and mayhem inflicted on Syria and the Syrian people made the current President, just as it did Saddam Hussein before him, a preferable choice to the “international powers’” Islamic fundamentalists and Al-Qa’ida phalanges.

What one missed are the proceedings that christened made the 9/11 criminals as new and ‘moderate’ allies of US, France and Britain engaged in a struggle for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’

And it is all done without batting an eyelid!

Apr 03, 2014 10:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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