Syrian elections begin abroad, voting restricted to legal refugees


May 28, 2014

May 28, 2014

By Elizabeth Parker-Magyar and Mohammed Ali al-Haj Ali

AMMAN: Syrians who left the country legally were permitted to vote in absentia in Syria’s presidential elections Wednesday, with photographs circulating on social media of lines crowding the streets near Syrian embassies in Lebanon and Jordan.

“A number of Syrian citizens voted… attaching to it great hope for the future of Syria and its freedom and peace,” official news agency SANA reported, detailing the electoral processes taking place simultaneously in Syrian embassies in Iran, Russia and China.

At the Syrian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, videos uploaded on social media depicted crowds in what SANA described “heavy turnout.” Lebanon is now a temporary home to nearly 1.1 million Syrian refugees.

Lebanon_embassy.jpgThousands of Syrians queued outside of Syria’s embassy in Beirut, Lebanon Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Tahrir Souria.

Through three years of war, the UN estimates that 2.8 million Syrians have fled the nation. Those who fled via official crossing points are eligible to vote, though many will choose not to.

In Jordan, home to 596,000 Syrian refugees, smaller crowds queued outside the Syrian embassy in Amman on Wednesday, one day after the Jordanian government insisted that the recent expulsion of Syria’s ambassador, Bahjat Suleiman, would not influence the elections. 

Jordan_election_2.jpgSyrians hold posters of al-Assad outside of the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan  Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Ahmad Aljamal.

At Syrian embassies globally, from Malaysia to Belarus, pro-government Syrians jubilantly raised posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photos of Maher Abd al-Hafiz and Hassan Abd el-Nouri, al-Assad’s relatively unknown opponents, remained largely absent.

Assad_Tartous_2.jpgSyrians gather near a photo of al-Assad in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Tahrir Souria.

The elections, in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faces opponents for the first time, come amidst widespread criticism from Western and Arab nations, many of whom have labeled the process a “parody of democracy.”

On social media, pro-opposition Syrians lambasted what they called the “blood elections.” One opposition page issued a campaign poster mocking al-Assad’s campaign slogan, which calls for “unity,” photoshopping the image of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei where al-Assad would be.

Rouhani_2.jpgA pro-opposition Facebook page photoshopped al-Assad’s campaign slogan onto a photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Photo courtesy of Sawa.

Voting did not take place in 11 Arab nations that had already closed their Syrian embassies, in addition to Turkey and France. The United Arab Emirates announced Tuesday it would not allow the Syrian embassy to conduct elections.

Syrian state media has referred to those nations rejecting the elections as a “troupe of conspirators” seeking to sabotage Syria’s electoral process.

Elections will be held inside Syria on June 3.

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