Pre-election chaos causes dismay among Syrian voters


THERE IS confusion in Syria over Monday’s election, in which 7,000 candidates are running for 250 seats in the national assembly.

While independents and members of licensed political parties declared their candidates some time ago, the ruling Baath party and its partners in the National Progressive Front did not do so until Tuesday.

Most of those running for, and against, the Front are unknowns. They are “faces with names on posters and no programmes”, said one commentator.

One potential voter said he knew no one standing in his constituency and that, unless he found a credible candidate from one of the new parties, he would vote for his “tribe”, a figure from his ethnic community.

The election is taking place as the government is not only facing popular protests and an armed insurrection but also trying to launch political dialogue with the opposition.

The opposition is critical of the election. This is “neither the time nor the place for elections”, said Hassan Abdel Azim, general co-ordinator of the locally based National Co-ordinating Board for the Forces for Democratic Change.

The opposition is fractured by division and disagreement, compounding the confusion.

According to Sawsan Zakak, a member of Building the Syrian State, there are 90 opposition groups, each with its own leadership and ideas on how to proceed.

Some favour arming the rebels and rejecting talks with the government, others reject militarisation of the revolt and seek dialogue once there is a ceasefire.

None trust the government, and nor does the government consider them a serious threat because of their factionalism.

The rebels are also divided. There are scores of militia groups that operate independently of the Syrian Free Army and the opposition, and there are Muslim fundamentalist (jihadi) elements that abide by the agendas of external sponsors.

Although government and opposition blame each other for the violence, it is often impossible to identify culprits involved in attacks, particularly the recent suicide bombings.

Confusion on the political level is confounding Syrians caught in the crossfire of the power struggle.

Many do not know which way to turn or which side to support. They simply want the killing to stop and a return to normal life.

Young Syrians standing on the sidelines fear they could become another lost generation, their

lives sacrificed by a conflict or conflicts on the domestic, regional and international levels being waged by those who have no thought for the future of the country.