Syria Heads to 3rd Legislative Elections Since 2011 as Economy, Security Top Agenda

© AP Photo / SANAThe Syrian People's Assembly (Parliament) (File)
The Syrian People's Assembly (Parliament) (File) - Sputnik International
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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Syria goes to the polls on Sunday for the third legislative elections since 2011 against the backdrop of tangible military gains in the fight against militants, but also the deepening economic crisis beset by the pandemic and unabating Western sanctions.

Syria's parliamentary elections occur every four years. The last vote, which was held in 2016, resulted in an alliance led by the ruling Arab Socialist Baath Party winning 200 out of the 250 seats in the unicameral legislature.

The 2020 vote was initially slated for April but was postponed to May 20 due to pandemic fears. The elections were later pushed back again — to 19 July.

Security

Syrian Justice Minister Hisham Shaar told Sputnik said that the government hopes the upcoming elections will take place in a much better atmosphere than any of those that have been held during the years of the war, since most of the country’s territory has returned under Damascus’ control.

Despite significant military gains achieved by the Syrian army, supported by Russia in its counterterrorism fight, security remains a top concern of voters.

"It is important to liberate the rest of the lands — Idlib and northeastern Syria — that are occupied by Turkey and America, work toward the reconciliation between the Syrians and restore peace and calm to the homeland, as safety and security are basic needs," Nidal Hmeidi, a member of the Syrian parliament, told Sputnik.

Economy, COVID-19, Sanctions

The years of war have taken its toll on the Syrian economy.

"The most considerable questions for people are pension-related issues and everyday needs, such as food and services, as people return to normal life and their homes," Hmeidi said.

The pandemic crisis and toughening sanctions have further contributed to the economic woes. In June, the national currency hit its record low in the run-up to the United States’ "Caesar" act taking effect and targeting anyone doing business with the Bashar Assad government.

The Syrian government, however, believes that foreign hopes for the elections to fail will not materialize.

"There is an external bet on the failure of the elections or any constitutional vote through the siege and fighting in Syria over the past 10 years. They will fail now as they have failed previously because of the leadership's connection with the people," Justice Minister Shaar said.

According to the official, despite the great suffering that the Syrian people are undergoing due to terrorism and economic strangulation, there is "no choice but to join hands and move forward and continue to fight our enemies."

What next?

Another distinct feature of the current elections is that they follow last year's launch of the Syrian constitutional committee in Geneva, which is tasked with rewriting the country’s main law to reconcile the country after years of war. The process has been put on hold due to coronavirus, with in-person talks expected to resume once the epidemiological situation allows for it.

"These elections will help [the government] in the negotiations of the Intra-Syrian dialogue and in constitutional negotiations but this process is the only way for constitutional changes as the Intra-Syrian dialogue is the only way to bring peace to Syria," Tarek Ahmad, a representative of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), told Sputnik.

According to the politician, the SSNP is going to run in the elections, as it wants to have a say in amending the constitution. Ahmed Meree, a Syrian lawmaker and a SSNP candidate from the city of Aleppo, called the elections "an important step toward constitutional changes" that "will certainly help the process."

"The time is right, we need to hold the elections now. We have already postponed these elections for 2-3 months. Syria is a democratic state. It is a multi-party parliamentary republic therefore we must held parliamentary elections. We are waiting for constitutional changes and ready to work with the constitutional committee," Meree told Sputnik.

In total, over 1,600 candidates are running in the Sunday vote, according to the country’s election watchdog.

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