Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has submitted documents to run for a third term in an election scheduled for May 26, parliament’s speaker said on state media.
The parliament speaker announced the election – the second under the shadow of the war – on Sunday. Washington and the Syrian opposition have denounced it as a farce designed to cement Assad’s authoritarian rule.
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President Assad, who took power following the death of his father Hafez in 2000, won the previous election in 2014, three years after a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters and amid the raging conflict. At the time, he was given nearly 90 percent of the vote.
Since then, Russia’s military intervention has helped Assad to regain large swathes of land from opposition fighters, who now control a small pocket of land in the country’s northwestern region.
Under Syria’s 2012 constitution, a president may only serve two seven-year terms – with the exception of the president elected in the 2014 poll.
Candidates must have lived continuously in Syria for at least 10 years, meaning that opposition figures in exile who were fighting to end 51 years of Assad family rule are barred from standing.
The poll also comes amid the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis.
The country is facing a worsening food and electricity situation, with many in government-controlled areas queuing for fuel and bread.
Intermittent power cuts have forced local businesses to shut, which has raised the level of unemployment in recent months.
The value of the Syrian pound has plummeted on the black market, accelerated by the financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon as well as US sanctions.
This year is the 10th anniversary of a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters which triggered a war that has left much of Syria in ruins.
The multi-sided conflict has sucked in world powers, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more, but is now nearing its end with Assad, supported by allies, back in control of most of the country.