Syrian election not to prevent Geneva talks from resuming - Russian diplomat
Presidential election in Syria is not an obstacle for resuming the Geneva talks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and president's Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov said on Tuesday, according to Itar-Tass news agency.
"We hope these elections will not be an obstacle. The talks should have been resumed long ago," he said.
A Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) member, Anton Lopatin, who has already visited several polling stations in Damascus and is now preparing to leave for Latakia, has noted that the presidential election in Syria has already drawn a high voter turnout and has been organized properly.
"All of the necessary arrangements have been made. Voters activity is very high. At the moment, we are at the airport, where a polling station is working as well. People are coming there, including from abroad, to cast their ballots. There is a feeling that it is a major holiday for the people here," Lopatin told Interfax over the phone on Tuesday.
Lopatin is working within a delegation of Russian State Duma deputies and senators monitoring the Syrian polls.
According to the Russian CEC member, he was leaving for Latakia, Syria's key port city, while Russia's parliamentarians are staying in the Syrian capital.
"They may travel to the outskirts of Damascus," he said.
Syrians began voting on Tuesday in an election expected to deliver an overwhelming victory to President Bashar al-Assad. Polling stations opened at 7 am (04:00 GMT) in Syria. This is Syria's first election in nearly 50 years, with Assad and his father Hafez renewing their mandates in successive referendums.
More than 15 million Syrians will be able to cast their vote in 11,000 ballot boxes distributed in more than 9,000 offices, which will be open from 7:00 am (04:00 GMT) to 7:00 pm (16:00 GMT).
"We hope for security and stability," said Hussam al-Din al Aws, an Arabic teacher who was the first person to vote at one polling station at a Damascus secondary school. Asked who would win, he responded: "God willing, President Bashar al-Assad."
Observers from countries allied to the Assad regime - North Korea, Iran and Russia - are to oversee the voting, while a security plan has reportedly been put in place in Syrian cities to prevent possible attacks against voters and polling stations.
For some time, rumours have swirled that polling stations in Damascus would be targeted by insurgents positioned in the nearby countryside.
Assad faces two competitors - Maher al-Hajjad and Hassan al-Nuri.
Nuri, who studied in the United States and speaks English, told AFP he expects to come second after Assad, who is sure to win.
The United States has called the vote "a parody of democracy".
Russia is keen on restoring peace in Syria because it wants to prove to the United States that the methods utilized in Middle East countries cannot reach Moscow, Syrian presidential election observer, Federation Council member Igor Morozov said, according to Interfax reports.
"I do not want the US to be under the illusion it may bring such methods to half of the world and reach Russia. Therefore, we are working on long distances. Syria is an outpost of statehood in the fight against armed revolts," Morozov said in an interview published by Izvestia on Monday.
Russia cannot help but be concerned about the trend of the armed opposition fighting the legitimate president and parliament with massive support from radicalized governments, the parliamentarian said.
"Russia cannot help but be concerned about this trend, which we regard as the continuation of Operation Arab Spring the United States launched in the Middle East three years ago. The scenario was implemented in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt. It is alarming that the White House is beginning to apply these tested technologies in Eastern Europe. We can see by the example of Ukraine that Maidan has copied the Middle East's techniques," he emphasized.
Morozov said he was confident that the armed opposition supported by many countries, among them the United States and the European Union, would do everything in its power to thwart the June 3 presidential election.
"Our primary objective on the day of the vote, June 3, is to control the compliance with international standards of voting rights in Syria. When the ballot is over, we will participate in the drawing up of a report about the election legitimacy," the parliamentarian said.
In his opinion, the presidential election is a good occasion for the Syrian government to demonstrate that it is in control of the situation. As to the election prospects of President Bashar al-Assad, Morozov said he might gain overwhelming support.
"Many [people] understand that al-Assad is not being fought by the opposition, he is being fought by the United States and its NATO partners who are manipulating the extremists and who are not above al-Qaeda jihadists. So, his re-election chances are very high," he said.
"His [al-Assad's] victory will symbolize the triumph of statehood and presidential authority over the jihadist evil, the American hegemony and the one-polar world," Morozov said.