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The Presidential Election in Syria takes place next Tuesday, June 3. With a revised 2012 Constitution, Syria is no longer a one party state and there are multiple candidates for office. Running against Bashar al Asad are former communist and legislator Maher al Hajjar and business person Hassan al Nouri.
The election has been vehemently opposed by the so called “Friends of Syria” (NATO members Turkey, Germany, France, UK, Italy, USA, plus the Gulf monarchies UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia plus Jordan and Egypt). Since 2011 the “Friends” have met periodically to coordinate funding, arming and training the rebels plus trying to promote and consolidate a credible outside political leadership. According to the pro opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the result of this externally supported uprising has been over 62,000 dead Syrian soldiers and militia, plus another 80,836 dead civilians. Many of the civilians were killed by rebels. Just looking at the number of dead Syrian soldiers and security forces, can you imagine what would happen if 10% that number (6,000 soldiers and security) were killed in the USA?
Given the extent of the violence, the well publicized fanaticism of the most active rebels and evident difficulty to manage the political operatives who were supposed to be anointed “leaders”, one might wonder whey the USA and others persist in trying to force regime change in Syria.
But instead of viewing the multi-candidate election in Syria as a step forward, they are viewing it as a mortal threat. “Assad’s staged elections are a farce,” Kerry said after the so-called Friends of Syria meeting in London on Thursday May 15. “They’re an insult. They are a fraud on democracy, on the Syrian people and on the world,” he added.
France, Germany, Belgium and the Gulf States have all prohibited voting in the Syrian election. Syrian Embassies in the US and Canada have been forced to close, removing the chance for Syrians living in these countries to vote.
Why are Kerry and the “Friends” so upset and fearful of Syrian elections? If they are such a farce, then much of the public will not participate in them. If the vote is seen by the public as meaningless, then voter turnout will be very low such as in Egypt this week.
As to the issue of holding an election during a time of conflict, this was done right here in the USA. The 1864 election which re-elected Abraham Lincoln was held during the midst of the extremely bloody US civil war.
Another group afraid of the Syrian elections is the Syrian American Council (SAC). This well funded lobby group claims to represent Syrian Americans. They have launched a twitter and Facebook campaign decrying the ‘Blood Election’. They have professional marketing and public relations, paid staff and support from neo-con and zionist interventionists in Congress. Still, their real support across the country seems thin. Last August and September 2013, they were promoting a US attack on Syria. They were not concerned with the massive bloodshed that would have resulted from that. Ironically they are decrying blood now when Syria holds a peaceful election.
In sharp contrast with SAC, alternative organizations such as Arab Americans for Syria (AA4Syria) and Syrian American Forum (SAF) are speaking with growing strength against our US tax dollars being used to destroy their homeland. As a measure of the depth of feelings, over 25 members of AA4Syria are flying to Beirut then traveling by land to Syria to vote in next Tuesday’s election. The same thing is happening in other countries which have prevented Syrians from casting a vote. Syrians who live in the Gulf are traveling all the way to Syria to vote as a sign of their commitment.
The reason is that many Syrians, both inside and outside the country, see voting in this election as a sign of support for their homeland at this difficult time.
Voting by Syrians living abroad has already begun, with voting yesterday May 28 in Lebanon, Jordan and a few other countries. The turnout in Beirut was massive, with tens of thousands of people marching, chanting and singing through the avenue and along the highway to the Syrian Embassy compound east of the city center. Look at the video and judge for yourself whether these people are being “forced” to vote or cheer for Bashar al Asad.
The voting in Beirut has been extended due to the huge turnout. This is in ironic contrast with Egypt where the government is desperately extending the voting hours and days, trying to boost the voting turnout.
If recent history is a guide, there may be some kind of spectacular media event or atrocity in the coming days. The Syrian opposition and their handlers have executed PR stunts at critical times. If it happens here, the purpose will be to distract from the strong Syrian participation in the election and to attempt to renew the branding of Asad as “brutal dictator”.
But the branding is wearing thin, those who are most affected by the crisis know the truth and even those who have been influenced by the immense propaganda may be starting to wonder: Was it ever a genuine “Syrian revolution”? What kind of “revolution” is financed by corrupt monarchies and former colonial powers? Is the “brutal dictator” really as bad as they say? The scenes of thousands of Syrians waving his poster, chanting his name and youth expressing love for him are not what they wish us to see.
Next week we can look at the videos, photos and stories from Syria. Hopefully there will be some reasonably unbiased reports. John Kerry and other “Friends of Syria” did not want it to happen, and there may still be violence and bumps on the journey, but the election in Syria is going ahead. Let’s see what Kerry and company are afraid of.
Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syrian Solidarity Movement. In April he was in Damascus, Latakia and Homs with the International Peace Pilgrimage.