March 4, 2014
Prominent opposition leader Moaz al-Khateeb on Tuesday rejected activists’ calls to run against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in presidential elections slated to take place in June of this year. “I announce my refusal to participate in any fraudulent election, as participating in fraudulence is the greatest aid to the regime, falsity and corruption,” al-Khateeb wrote on his personal Facebook page.
Al-Khateeb’s remarks came in response to widespread discussion in online opposition circles sparked by a Facebook campaign pushing to nominate al-Khateeb for president. The page, entitled “Together to nominate Moaz al-Khateeb as President of Syria Against al-Assad,” accumulated nearly 70,000 “likes” within 24 hours of its publication on Facebook, but also provoked an outcry from others who feel that any nomination will legitimize an election process widely viewed as nothing more than pro-Assad pageantry.
Last December, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Feisal al-Miqdad affirmed that Assad would run for his third consecutive seven-year term in 2014, after garnering 97 percent of the vote in the 2007 elections.
Susan Ahmad, 28, is a citizen journalist based in Damascus. She tells Syria Direct’s Abdulrahman al-Masri that nominating al-Khateeb would only “give legitimacy to the regime and to al-Assad’s nomination” in elections that will have no representative value. “ Before we talk about elections,” she insists, “we need to talk about ceasefires and bringing displaced people back to their homes.”
Q: What is your opinion about the recently launched campaign to nominate Moaz al-Khatib to run for president?
Regardless of Moaz al-Khatib’s character, proposing a candidate to run against Bashar al-Assad will give legitimacy to the regime and to Assad’s nomination. The one who committed all these crimes against the Syrian people should be in courts, not in elections. I will also add that we already know the results; we’re used to this. There are no observers for the elections, so Bashar will just win by 99.99 percent.
A screenshot of the Return of Ghouar television series, a Syrian comedy from the 1990s. In this photo, Abu Antar, a dictatorial prisoner, tells prisoners sharing a cell with him to vote in elections for cell president. “Vote for me, and that’s it,” is written on a sign bellow the ballot box.
Q: If the international community were to support this campaign to replace al-Assad with al-Khatib, couldn’t it play a role in ending the crisis?
Given that the international community failed in Geneva II to open humanitarian corridors, stop the bombardment and stop the massacres against civilians, there’s no reason to trust that it will support this campaign. The international community has yet to identify a mechanism to force the regime to abide by any decision. I think it lacks the will to remove the regime and stop the killing—otherwise it would have done this before the crisis reached this level.
Q: As you said, Geneva didn’t produce any political solution, and we’re not close to any military solution. Do you think the elections could represent a solution, if they were under international supervision?
And who will guarantee that the elections are real or fair? The international community has failed to deliver food to blockaded people, which is much easier than supervising and managing election processes. There are millions of refugees and displaced people, not to mention those that remain under bombardment in their neighborhoods. How can we talk about elections during this kind of war? I think before we talk about elections, we need to talk about ceasefires and bringing displaced people back to their homes.
Q: So what do you see as an alternative solution to stop the Syrian crisis now?
It’s not easy to ask for military intervention, but if some foreign power were to intervene to stop the bleeding, then so be it. I am fully convinced that if the international community wanted to stop Bashar al-Assad from committing more massacres, it would do that, just like they forced him to surrender his chemical weapons.
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