7 more years: Assad reelected
Bashar al-Assad won Syria’s elections Tuesday with 88.7% of the vote, Syria’s Speaker of the House Jihad al-Luhum announced Wednesday. Assad was reelected for his third seven-year term with more than 10 million votes, Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced, citing turnout of 11,634,412 Syrians – or 72% of eligible voters.
Official government news agency SANA did not report vote totals for al-Assad’s relatively unknown opponents, Maher Hajjar and Hassan a-Nouri, who lauded the elections for their “fairness and transparency.”
Assad supporters celebrated throughout government-held Syria, the pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported, even as al-Assad issued a statement cautioning Syrians against firing their guns into the air “in national feeling.”
The Syrian opposition labeled Tuesday’s elections as “blood elections,” while the United States, France and other Western nations denounced the electoral process as a “parody.”
Of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million, 162,000 have been killed through three years of conflict, 2.8 million have fled the nation, 6.5 million are internally displaced and approximately 40% of the nation is under rebel control.
Syrians celebrate Bashar al-Assad's re-election Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Free Syria Media Hub.
OPCW: ‘The deadline will not be met’
Syria will not meet the deadline to remove chemical weapons from its territory, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations (OPCW-UN) Joint Mission, Sigrid Kaag, told reporters on Wednesday.
“The deadline will not be met,” Special Coordinator Kaag said Wednesday after a session with the UN Security Council, speaking about the June 30, 2014 deadline to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program.
The focus of the mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program will now shift to the immediate removal of the remaining weapons material, said Kaag.
An estimated 7.2 percent of Syria’s weapons supply remains in the country and is currently held at a single site, but cannot be moved due to “volatile security conditions.”
Kaag cited the Damascus suburb of Adra, where the convoy must pass, as the major point of security concern. The weapons material must be transported to the port city of Latakia, where it would then be shipped by Danish and Norwegian vessels to an American ship and destroyed at sea.
The OPCW is currently investigating allegations that the Syrian Army attacked multiple towns in the provinces of Hama and Idlib using chlorine gas. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which the Syrian government signed in October 2013, allows countries to have chlorine, but states that the government must declare its presence to the OPCW and prevents its use as a weapon.
Twin explosions rock regime rally in Hama
Two explosions rocked the regime-controlled city of Hama during a rally of Syrian government supporters Wednesday afternoon, Hama activist Abu al-Farouq told Syria Direct Thursday. No casualty numbers were reported on the bombings, which struck a government checkpoint at Ein al-Loza Circle and in the Bab Qubli neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the Syrian air force pounded the city’s suburbs, striking the villages of al-Jumla and al-Jabeen with barrels bombs, al-Farouq added, while the pro-opposition Hama Media Center reported the Syrian government had used cluster bombs in strikes on the town of Aqrab, in southern Hama province.
The regime-controlled city of Hama has been spared much of the violence plaguing Syria’s other provincial capitals, even as rebels retain swaths of control throughout the province.