Regime: Elections a triumph for Syrian democracy
Polling for Syria’s presidential elections opened early Tuesday morning for voters in government-controlled parts of the country, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad casting his ballot from the Malki district of Damascus. Pro-Assad media touted Bashar al-Assad’s likely third seven-year term as a triumph for Syrian democracy.
Damascus “hopes for citizens to cast their votes with freedom and transparency,” wrote pro-regime daily al-Watan. “A number of foreign delegations,” including Iranian, Russian and Filipino officials had arrived in Damascus to observe the voting process, in addition to civil society representatives from America and “different European states,” the paper reported.
Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Coalition President Ahmed Jarba penned an op-ed in the Washington Post decrying Syria’s “blood elections.”
“Assad’s attempt to pretend—after bombing, starving and slaughtering his own people for more than three years—that he is holding a legally recognized election is intended to provide him and his tyrannical regime with a veneer of legitimacy, however false,” Jarba wrote.
For the first time, an Assad running for president is not the sole candidate. Tuesday’s ballot shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (right), Maher Hajjar (left) and Hassan a-Nouri (center). Photo courtesy of Al-Alam.
Islamist coalitions pledge not to target polling centers
As voting opened for Syria’s presidential elections on Tuesday, four powerful Islamist coalitions, including the Islamic Front and Jaysh al-Mujahideen, issued a statement warning Syrians not to attend polling centers but pledging that they would refrain from targeting these installations in order to “remove civilians from the conflict’s orbit.”
The statement comes four days after another, less prominent rebel group—the Aleppo-based Radaa Brigade—warned that it would “target all government installations in occupied areas” during the elections period.
There has been no noticeable uptick in violence associated with the elections, but fighting has continued unabated along Syria’s frontlines. Rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front have mounted a fresh offensive around the Idlib town of Jisr a-Shughour, releasing video purporting show their destruction of a government take using American-made TOW missiles.
Turkey: A-Nusra is a terrorist organization
Turkey listed al-Qaeda affiliated rebel group Jabhat a-Nusra as a terrorist organization on Tuesday, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported. Turkey’s action follows the United Nations, United States, Australia and the United Kingdom who have done the same.
Nusra coordinates closely in Syria with other armed Islamist rebel groups, though tensions have recently flared in its relationships with moderate rebel factions, particularly in southern Syria.
Through three years of conflict, thousands of foreign fighters have flocked to Syria through Turkey’s porous southern border with Syria, many of them to join Jabhat a-Nusra or the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham.
Moner Mohammad Abusalha, the American man who blew himself up in Syria last week, was a Jabhat a-Nusra combatant.
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