Bashar Assad, the Syrian president [AP] 
Voter apathy is expected to mark parliamentary elections in Syria, where the ruling Baath Party and its allies are guaranteed two-thirds of the seats and a return to power.

The parliament has only a nominal role to play in government; opposition parties are banned; and although independent candidates are allowed to stand, they have to be vetted by the government first.

Can the elections do any more than consolidate President Bashar Assad's position? What do they mean for Syria's standing in the world? And what ever happened to the Damascus Spring – the reform spirit that sprang up a short time ago?

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This episode of Inside Story aired on 22 April 2007

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