SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 24 June 2021, Thursday |

Syria opposition leader says Assad election to worsen country’s plight

A Damascus-based secular opposition leader said that “sham” election designed to prolong President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on Syria shows that only international pressure for a UN-backed peace plan can pave the way for democratic rule.

Lawyer Hassan Abdul Azim of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change added that Wednesday’s vote would only worsen the plight of a country afflicted by starvation, poverty and an “authoritarian regime”.

“This insistence on adhering to power does not bring stability,” Abdul Azim told Reuters in a phone interview, referring to acute fuel and food shortages and sky-rocketing inflation that has pushed most Syrians deeper into poverty.

“These sham elections show the regime does not want a political solution and the situation will worsen,” said Abdul Azim, the committee’s general coordinator.

“People are now dying of hunger.”

Unrepentant, Assad says Syrians made their feelings clear by coming out in large rallies to support the election. Addressing his critics as he voted, he said: “The value of your opinions is zero.”

Abdul Azim’s committee, whose leaders are based mainly in Syria, was set up in the aftermath of pro-democracy protests in March 2011 that spiraled into a devastating war that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions.

It is a coalition of mainly outlawed opposition parties inside Syria bringing together liberals, leftists and nationalists who demand real democratic change.

Syria’s political future, he argues, rests on major powers pushing forward stalled UN Security Council resolution 2254 that paves the way for a transitional government and free and fair elections under UN supervision.

“It would be real elections with competing candidates and not ones whose results are known beforehand,” Abdul Azim said of peace plan, negotiated in 2015 in a rare show of unity among major powers.

The prominent opposition figure spent several years in prison during the long decades of Assad family rule.

Abdul Azim blamed the president for destroying several rounds of Syria Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva since October 2019 that brought together the opposition and the government to draft a new constitution.