Assad has emerged as a winner in the first-ever multi-candidate presidential election in Syria, raising new controversy in the West. But why would the West reject the Syrian election, though it has readily recognize the Ukraine vote? And what is the anti-Assad coalition going to do now? Radio VR is discussing it with Chris Doyle, Director of Caabu, the Center of Advancing Arab-British Relations, and Boris Dolgoff, senior researcher at Center for Arabic Studies at institute of Oriental Studies for the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected Syria's president with 88.7 percent of the vote in the first presidential election. Due to a high voter turnout of 73.42 percent, the polling, which began at 7 am Tuesday, was extended by five hours and ended at midnight. Yet, regions, which still under the rebel, have boycotted the vote. There were two more presidential candidates in Tuesday's vote - a Liberal candidate Hassan al-Nuri and Maher al-Hajjar, a Communist MP from Aleppo. This was the first multi-candidate presidential election in Syria for almost 50 years. Assad said it was part of his efforts to meet the opposition’s demands.
Yet, most countries in the West have denounced the election as a sham. Chris Doyle, Director of Caabu, the Center of Advancing Arab-British Relations:
"The Syrian so-called election is not in any way a legitimate electoral democratic exercise, it is simply an exercise undertaken in one area of the country, controlled by the regime. And for this reason it doesn’t actually change the realities on the ground. There is still a conflict, there are still huge areas of the country that are racked by massive destruction and decimation. It won’t produce the sort of reconciliation and the peace process that is so desperately and urgently required to end this quite horrific situation in Syria.
So, we knew that there was some support for the regime, from the loyalists or others. That we knew before and that will remain at the same state. But the President still remains illegitimate today, as he was before.
If we compare it with the situation in Ukraine, it seems to be rather similar.
Syria is in the middle of a quite incredible conflict – 160 000 people killed, 2.5 million refugees, 6-7 million people displaced. I mean, it is an advanced stage of a major conflict that has affected each and every part of the country. And in that sense it is very-very different to Ukraine.
And what we have seen in Syria is a one party state that has been in power since 1963. And at some point we have to deliver on a political solution that allows for greater freedoms and changes within Syria that manages to bring the society back together.
But you cannot hold elections that are in any way legitimate or credible, or indeed are going to produce a positive outcome in such an environment, because what they will do is just add to the polarization. It doesn’t resolve anything.
What are the Western powers going to do now?
The entirety of the international community has failed. Western powers, regional powers, indeed, Russia and China as well. I mean, they all need to work together to find a single solution for the future of the country, rather than work against each other. And this is the nub of the problem.
And this is why the so-called elections in Syria are really a sideshow to what should be going on. And what is therefore needed, is to get back to Geneva process (I gather that the Chinese President has said this) and look to some sort of transitional government that can allow ceasefire to take place all over the country, to allow some sort of rehabilitation of what is going on in Syria.
We cannot allow the situation to continue as it is. We have to think of Syria and the Syrians first, and put aside other differences".
"The presidential elections in Syria meet international standards commonly recognized and all statements about these elections being farce are unsound and politically motivated," says Russian Federation Council international affairs committee member Igor Morozov, who was in Syria monitoring the elections with a group of Russian MPs and members of the Russian Central Election Committee.
Boris Dolgoff, senior researcher at Center for Arabic Studies at institute of Oriental Studies for the Russian Academy of Sciences:
"I think that the presidential election in Syria is very important, it expresses the support of the majority of the Syrian people to the President Bashar al-Assad. But it was known. I have been to Syria after the beginning of this crisis twice. And I myself saw this support by a lot of people in the city of Damascus and in the city of Hama, and in the city of Homs, the support to Bashar al-Assad as the President.
What do you think the international community is now going to do about Syria? Assad’s position has been even strengthened over the past three years and this could not be discarded. Are they going to continue their pressure on his Government? Are they going to make this case a bargaining point in relations with Russia? What are they going to do and what needs to be done?
If we speak about the international community, there are some countries which want to destroy the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and there are some countries which want to have a process of democratization in Syria, real democratization and a peace process for Syria. But, unfortunately, we see that the US, Great Britain, France and other NATO members consciously support the forces in Syria which want to destroy Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
And we saw some countries, like Russia, Iran, China, Algeria, Egypt and some Arabic countries, which support the peaceful way to construct a real democracy in Syria. It is my opinion. And I think that after this real victory in the presidential election in Syria, Bashar Assad can begin the real efforts to stop the violence in Syria. We know that there is a confrontation inside the Syrian opposition, among some radical Islamist groups in Syria.
And I think that in this situation, when the regime of Bashar Assad starts a peace process to stop the violence in Syria, some radical opposition groups now agree and are ready to have some agreement with the Syrian Government, with Bashar Assad, to stop this violence in Syria. I think that the result of the presidential election in Syria will help to realize this plan, this peace process to stop the violence in Syria".