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Middle East
Voting continues in Syria
Opposition politicians dismiss two-day parliamentary poll as a "pointless" exercise.
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2007 06:13 GMT

The ruling Baath party is guaranteed 131 seats, or 52 percent of the total [AFP]

Voting has resumed for a second day in Syria's parliamentary elections after a slow start and calls from opposition politicians for people to boycott the poll.

Around 12 million Syrians eligible to vote have until 2:00pm on Monday to cast their vote and results are expected on Tuesday.
Hassan Abdel-Azim, a spokesman for six banned, but largely tolerated, parties operating under the umbrella National Democratic Rally (NDR) said it was "pointless to take part in an election whose results are known in advance."

Abdel-Azim was alluding to the fact that of the 250 parliamentary seats available, 167 are reserved for the ruling National Progressive Front (NPF) coalition, led by president Bashar al-Assad's Baath party. The party itself is guaranteed 131 seats, or 52 percent of the total.

Familiar winner

The other 83 seats are allocated to so-called independent candidates that are "close to the authorities," according to Abdel-Azim.

"The NPF will come out the winner", he said, as it has done in all organised elections since 1973.

The official SANA news agency, which also reported that 2,500 candidates were standing for the 250 seats in the assembly.

The US dismissed the elections as a useless exercise.

However, an official Syrian newspaper said Damascus had never needed "democratic" advice from abroad.

The election is the second since al-Assad took over power in 2000 from his father.

Voting was slow on Sunday indicating residents may be split on whether the election, totally lacking in suspense for most people, would bring any change.

The vote was taking place "in total freedom and transparency", SANA said, without giving turnout figures for the first day.
Source:
Agencies
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