The authorities are portraying Bashar al-Assad
as a key element in the country's stability

The pictures of Bashar al-Assad are everywhere in Damascus these days. On the eve of a national referendum, the streets of the Syrian capital have been invaded by national flags, banners, posters and slogans expressing allegiance to the country's president.

Unchallenged, al-Assad is widely expected to get more than the 51 per cent of the votes required by law to enable the president to secure a second seven-year term.

Tremendous efforts are being made by the authorities to ensure maximum voter turnout, with al-Assad being portrayed as a key element in Syria's stability and prosperity.

Timeline

Bashar al-Assad in power

In a country where people confine themselves to safe generalities, it is difficult to obtain a genuine assessment of the president's first term in office.

Random interviews on the streets of Damascus produced varying opinions.

One man said: "He [al-Assad] has promised continued improvements, but we know this is not going to happen overnight because he doesn't have the magic stick."

'All-round development'

A woman said: "In the last seven years, under the leadership of the president, all sectors of the country have seen development. What we didn't have in the past are now in abundance."

A second woman said: "The situation is very good and we want it to continue as it is."

Over the past few weeks, the state's propaganda machine has reminded its audience throughout Syria of what it says are huge achievements of the young president.

One woman said all sectors of the country
have seen development under al-Assad

Aref Al Ali, managing editor of the Tishrin newspaper, says: "Our coverage of the event was accurate, not exaggerated. We made efforts to highlight the accomplishment of the president during the last seven years."

Syrians want to see their living standards improve during al-Assad's second term.

However, nobody knows what are going to be his priorities.

With al-Assad at the helm, Syria faces international pressure to implement political reforms and change its foreign policy.

Public gatherings that stretch late into the night organised by the government and its supporters aim to show the world a Syria that is stable in a region marked by chaos and uncertainty.

This is what the authorities want the world to see: enthusiastic crowds united behind their leader.

While Syrians seem to be optimistic, they know their future depends to a large extent on the future of stability in the region.

Source: Al Jazeera