The decision by Damascus to hold presidential elections in June causes an outcry.
Despite a war, the Syrian government appears determined to go ahead with presidential elections on June 3. It is widely believed that President Bashar al-Assad will easily be elected to a seven-year term.
The vote is to be held under new rules that block major Syrian opposition figures from standing for office. These rules require candidates to have lived in Syria for the last decade. The opposition dismisses the election as a farce.
The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, says holding elections now may close the door to future peace negotiations. The US and UK have also been critical of Syria’s plans to hold the presidential vote.
The decision to hold elections was announced at a time when violence rages across the country.
Activists estimate that more than 150,000 people have been killed in three years. Millions of Syrians have been displaced. And though his forces have made major battlefield gains in recent months, Bashar al-Assad has lost significant territory to the armed opposition.
So, do Syrians really need elections now?
Presenter: Hazem Sika
Saleh Mubarak, member of the Syrian National Council
Ammar Waqqaf, a Syrian activist who advocates for reform, and not regime change
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Joshua also writes for syriacomment.com