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7 May, 2012 11:29

Syria votes despite opposition boycott

Polling stations have closed in Syria, where people were voting for a 250-strong parliament in the first democratic election in decades. More than 7,000 candidates, including 710 women, were competing for the seats.

The polling stations closed at 19:00 GMT. The voting proceeded normally and quietly on Monday, said Judge Khalaf al-Azzawi, the chairman of Higher Committee for Elections, as quoted by SANA state news agency. Al-Azzawi stated there had been some minor complaints at the polls in Damascus but no serious violations were registered anywhere. There were some reports of violence, which could not be independently verified. Witnesses claimed that security forces launched attacks on several villages where opposition members were refusing to vote.It was the first time since the 1963 coup that Syrians were allowed to choose members of different political parties and independent candidates to represent them. The change in electoral law was part of the constitutional reform that President Bashar Assad’s government pushed through in response to the rise of opposition forces.Before the elections RT’s Sara Firth spoke to Mohammad Louay Sari, one of the candidates, who feels he is the voice of young people and wants to represent them in the political sphere.“Now in Syria we have a problem – it’s a problem of people wanting to make things really democratic. Everyone must go and choose someone who can speak about this problem for people in this parliament. I’m sure now we’ll make a new step about this problem in Syria,” the 30-year-old said.

Opposition calls to boycott ballot

The voting took place against a background of a shaky truce between governmental forces and the armed opposition. The latter refused to take part in the campaign, saying there is no way an election can be fair in Syria at present. “It is really completely nonsense to arrange voting in the current circumstances in the country,” said a speaker for the Syrian National Co-Ordination Committee, Abdul Aziz Alkhayer. “The country cannot provide security for people in so many cities and villages and towns.”

RT went to Zabadani a town not far from Damascus, which is among those lacking proper law and order. Before the crisis it was a popular holiday spot. But over the course of the conflict it has seen fierce fighting, with control switching from the government to the Free Syrian Army and back again.Anti-government sentiment remains strong in Zabadani.“We want to fight the government. We don’t want to sit like this. No work, no safety. Maybe anytime the army comes in your house and take you – everyone sleeps outside their houses, some people sleep in the mountains,” a local resident, who asked not to show his face, told RT.But not everyone wants to see the fighting go on. Many lives have been lost over the course of the conflict in Syria, and many people are now desperate to see all sides lay down their arms and resolve this conflict another way.“Killing does not lead to a solution. Talking does. Dialogue does. Dialogue should start. I suppose that the minute this dialogue starts the violence will be less,” says George Jabour, former advisor for the Syrian government.The opposition’s boycott of the elections has left little room for discussion here. Jabour believes the move is a mistake on their part. Participating and asking for international monitoring of the election would be a better solution. But the government shares the blame too, because it failed to encourage protesters to join it.“Because of the loss of dialogue we are fighting each other not with words but with bullets. And this is sad,” he added.