In Syria's second city of Aleppo, "candidates were  disappointed by the low turnout," the independent Al-Watan newspaper reported
 
'Little enthusiasm'

The official SANA news agency said the vote had taken place "in total freedom and transparency", without giving turnout figures for the first day.

Journalists at the polling stations reported that there seemed to be little enthusiasm for the election in which nearly 12 million Syrians were eligible to vote.

"I don't really think anything is going to change, but I wanted to vote anyway," Inas Kokashsaid after casting his ballot on Monday.
 
"It's better to do something than to do nothing at all."

The Baath party itself is guaranteed 131 seats, 52 per cent of the total, in the parlaiment.

The other 83 seats are allocated to so-called independent candidates "close to the authorities," according to Hassan Abdel-Azim, a spokesman for the six banned, but largely tolerated, opposition parties which operate under the umbrella National Democratic Rally (NDR) organistaion.

Abdel-Azim said it was "pointless to take part in an election whose results are known in advance ... The NPF will come out the winner," as it has done in all organised elections since 1973.

The election is the second since Bashar al-Assad took power after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2002.