Syrian Elections: Why I Won't Vote

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A Syrian man presses his thumb, a drop of blood on it, onto a ballot paper bearing the portraits of the three presidential candidates (LtoR): Bashar al-Assad, Hassan Abdallah al-Nuri and Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar on June 3, 2014 during the presidential election at Bassel al-Assad school turned into a polling station in central Damascus. (Photo: AFP-Louai Beshara)

By: Yazan al-Saadi

Published Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We are told that elections are a marker of democracy, that by virtue of voting, a person is enacting their democratic right participating in the decision-making. But is this really true?

Today, Syrians will apparently select a president from three candidates. The freedom of choice, denied for over half a century, is arguably a milestone. It would have been an important milestone if circumstances were different.

What is the wisdom in holding an election in a time of war, especially when a large segment of the population either cannot physically or have the free will not to be involved? Most of the country is in tatters, fragmented and divided, and the rhetoric that these elections will build unity collides headfirst with the realities on the ground.

Of course, that is assuming that the election process was free and fair. It is clearly not. The candidates themselves, even with the greater leeway offered to them by the regime, are still constrained by the limitations that have been in place in Syria for decades. Bashar al-Assad is an essential part that holds the regime and its support structures together, and his departure, in whatever way, is a red line. The regime will not change so easily or willingly. It has the backing of a large military, security, and economic apparatuses that have benefited but the few at the expense of the majority.

Ask yourselves this: If the regime was unwilling or unable to lessen its tight grip during times of stability and peace, what reason would it have to do so in a time of chaos and war?

The results are already predetermined, and the mummer's farce is too blatant to ignore. How can I accept these facts and vote?

The candidates themselves have not gone far enough, at least in my eyes, to really criticize how the regime has conducted itself during the course of this uprising and subsequent civil war, and before this tragedy. There is a long history of injustice directed towards the Syrian population. It is not merely 'mistakes' or acts of necessity, that are simply forgivable. These are crimes that should be held to account, and without adequately doing so, the discontent will only continue to fester.

We are talking of undeniable acts of brutality, torture, and whole-scale violence under the guise of a fight against terrorism and a foreign conspiracy – both of which I do agree exist, but do not think justify an iota of savagery. We are talking about decades of corruption and looting, where the pockets of elites and those linked to the regime have filled up magnificently, while many of the population are poor and pushed to the margins. We are talking about a mentality of arrogance and self-entitlement, where the public are lectured at rather than communicated to.

These are causes that will not vanish with modest, superficial reforms or carrying out an election that has the illusion of choice. It demands a serious, concerted effort. It demands true compassion. It demands a perspective that is not limited to one's own self-interests and restricted to the short-term. Yet, none of these factors are in play currently, not in the policies being implemented nor in the course of the election process the past two months.

While I choose not to vote, I bear no ill will to any Syrian who does. It is their right to decide what they want or how they act, and the threats against them either by the regime – in terms of those who do not vote – and the opposition – to those who do so – are condemnable.

The bigger tragedy, in this depressing mockery of political theater, is the crocodile tears of the “Friends of Syria,” those Western and Gulf Arab countries, who unleash flowery rhetoric about caring for and protecting the rights of Syrians, when they have barred refugees from their borders, and a few of these countries have taken it upon themselves to deny Syrians the choice to vote in a problematic election system. That denial is no different at its core from that of the regime's years of control. Furthermore, the mockery of the elections by the Syrian political opposition – particularly the Syrian National Coalition – is off-putting, not in the sense that these elections do not deserve to be mocked, but due to the fact that the SNC's own election process has been pathetic, rife with corruption, and frankly an embarrassment.

Ultimately, I understand the many reasons why Syrians who have chosen to vote do so.

A large segment of the population does support the regime. This is a fact. A large proportion as well, is voting out of frustration and despair, in hopes that such an act will end the war. Another group of Syrians is voting out of contempt for the opposition – many of whom have been politically incompetent, virtually disconnected from the public in Syria and the refugees languishing in camps peppered around neighboring countries, and have excused acts of violent criminality and horror and brutality that have become no different from the regime. That is an important fact that cannot be ignored anymore. The Syrians have an inalienable right to articulate what they want – whether you agree with it or not.

Yet, the choice cannot and should not be absolute, with only the regime on one hand and the opposition on the other.

Both the regime and its Syrian opponents have proven themselves undeserving to lead the Syrian population. Both have blood on their hands. Both are first and foremost concerned with their own interests and survivability regardless of how high the price has been these past three years.

I personally choose not to vote, because I demand better.

I demand real self-determination and a real voice for myself, my family, and my citizens, and for that to happen, elections are the last thing we need. Rather, we need the upholding and implementation of our rights, we need a rule of law, we need accountability against all and any crimes no matter who they were committed by, and we need to be respected by all the stakeholders.

The struggle against tyranny and repression, in all its forms, is far from over, and it will continue as long as there is injustice. In Syria, we have plenty of that – with elections or not.


Almost everyone else voted. You are effectively doing what the US, the Saudis, and the ISIL want.

Did you read the article, or just the title? Most people from the Shaam I know in Amman didn't vote either. They think it's a joke. And they detest the US/Saudis/Daish as much as the rest of us.

who cares what u do


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