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Syria to hold presidential election next month, second under shadow of civil war

Parliament speaker announces that the vote, likely to keep dictator Assad in power, will be held on May 26

Syrian President Bashar Assad heads a cabinet meeting, in Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2021. (Syrian Presidency Facebook page via AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad heads a cabinet meeting, in Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2021. (Syrian Presidency Facebook page via AP)

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria is to hold a presidential election on May 26, the parliament speaker announced Sunday, the country’s second in the shadow of civil war, seen as likely to keep President Bashar Assad in power.

Syrians abroad will be “able to vote at embassies” on May 20, Hamouda Sabbagh said in a statement, adding that prospective candidates could hand in their applications from Monday.

Assad, who took power following the death of his father Hafez in 2000, has not yet officially announced that he will run for reelection.

He won a previous election three years into Syria’s devastating civil war in 2014, with 88 percent of the vote.

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 are barred from running.

Candidates must also have the backing of at least 35 members of the parliament, which is dominated by Assad’s Baath party.

This year’s vote comes after Russian-backed Syrian government forces re-seized the vital northern city of Aleppo and other opposition-held areas, placing Damascus in control of two-thirds of the country.

But the poll also comes amid a crushing economic crisis.

The decade-long civil war has left at least 388,000 people dead and half of the population displaced.

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