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Syria to hold presidential vote on May 26

By AFP - Apr 19,2021 - Last updated at Apr 19,2021

DAMASCUS — Syria will hold a presidential election on May 26 in the country devastated by a decade of civil war.

It will be the second vote since the conflict erupted in March 2011, killing at least 388,000 people since and displacing half the population, with no political solution in sight.

The election, announced on Sunday by parliament speaker Hamouda Sabbagh, comes as Syria is also mired in a deep economic crisis, worsened by sanctions, the pandemic and financial turmoil in Lebanon.

Assad, who took power following the death of his father Hafez in 2000, has not yet officially announced that he will stand for reelection.

The now 55-year-old won a previous poll three years into the war, in 2014, with 88 per cent of the vote.

Since then government forces have clawed back swathes of territory from rebel forces with military help from regime allies Russia and Iran and Tehran's proxy Lebanese militia, Hizbollah.

But parts of Syria still escape government control and polling will not take place in those areas.

They include the north-western province of Idlib, a rebel bastion controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham which is led by members of Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate.

The Idlib region, including nearby districts where other rebel groups are also present, is home to 2.9 million people, of whom two thirds have fled their homes in other regions ravaged by violence.

Also unable to vote will be Syrians living in border regions controlled by Turkish troops and proxy militias, and others who live in areas of the Kurdish-majority north where regime forces are not present.

Voting will only be allowed for Syrians living in government-controlled areas or those who are living abroad and registered with their country’s embassies.

Presidential hopefuls can submit their candidacies during a 10-day period starting on Monday, Sabbagh said.

They must have lived continuously in Syria for at least 10 years, meaning that opposition figures in exile are barred from standing.

Candidates must also have the backing of at least 35 members of parliament, which is dominated by Assad’s Baath Party.

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