Syria sets presidential election for June 3

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, April 21, 2014

Syria said Monday it will hold presidential elections expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to office on June 3, as violence continues to plague the country.

Mortar fire hit near the parliament building shortly before the election date was announced, killing two people.

Parliament speaker Mohammad al-Lahham announced the election date at a special session, saying Syrians living outside the country would vote May 28 and candidates would be able to register to run from Tuesday until May 1.

Lahham said voting would be "free and fair... and under full judicial supervision."

He urged Syrians "to give voice to their will through the ballot box and participate in the democratic process by electing whoever they think is most able to lead Syria to victory."

"We are confident that you will grant your support... to whoever is worthy of leading and defending Syria, protecting its sovereignty and principles and ensuring a safer future where all Syrians enjoy their rights without distinction," he added.

Assad, who became president after his father Hafez died in 2000 and whose current term ends on July 17, is widely expected to run and win another seven-year term in office despite the conflict.

New election rules require candidates to have lived in Syria for the last decade, effectively preventing key opposition figures in exile from standing for office.

The opposition has criticized plans to hold presidential elections and insists that Assad should step down and have no role in Syria's future.

Much of the international community has also warned Syria against holding the vote, with UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi saying it could close the door to future peace negotiations.

It remains unclear how Syria's government will organize an election under the current circumstances, with swathes of the country out of its control and nearly half the population displaced.

Violence continues in many parts of the country, even reaching into the heart of the capital, which has regularly come mortar fire from opposition fighters on the outskirts.

A security source said mortar fire in Damascus was expected to increase during the electoral period.

"They will increase the fire this month to try to undermine the election," he said, referring to opposition fighters.

(AFP)

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