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Syria to hold presidential elections in late May, amid decade-long war

Syria to hold presidential elections in late May, amid decade-long war
The Syrian parliament has announced that presidential elections will be held in the country next month. Would-be candidates can file documents from April 19 onwards.

Syrians who live in government-controlled areas will cast their votes on May 26, the speaker of the parliament, Hammouda Sabbagh, announced on Sunday. Those who live outside the country but are registered with Syrian embassies will be able to vote at those embassies earlier, on May 20, he added. 

Applications for nomination will be accepted from Monday, and potential candidates will have 10 days to submit their documents to the Supreme Constitutional Court, the official said, as reported by the SANA news agency.

Under the Syrian constitution, those who intend to run for presidency must have lived in the country continuously for at least 10 years, and must have the backing of at least 35 parliament members. The same person can serve two seven-year presidential terms, with the exception of the president elected in the 2014 poll, Bashar Assad, who, back then, received nearly 90 percent of the votes. The Syrian leader, who has been in power since 2000, following the death of his father, Hafez Assad, has not yet officially announced whether he will run for re-election. 

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The credibility of the upcoming elections has been cast into doubt for some, due to the fact that not all Syrians will be able to take part in the ballot. Polling will not take place in several areas of the war-torn country, such as those controlled by non-government forces, including Idlib, and some regions in the country’s north, bordering Turkey. Syrians around the world who have fled the military conflict but are not officially registered with their country’s embassies are also excluded from the vote.

Earlier this year, the prospect of an election was criticized by the US and its Western allies, who claimed it would “neither be free nor fair” and called for “an inclusive political process.” 

This year marks a decade since the start of the conflict in Syria, in which international forces have been involved. The Russian military have been present in the country at the request of Damascus to assist in fighting radicals from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and various Al-Qaeda-linked groups. Washington also maintains the presence of troops in Syria – which is illegal under international law – offering direct support to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.

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