U.S. slams Syrian elections as ‘a disgrace’
The election is expected to deliver an overwhelming victory for Assad but which his opponents have dismissed as a charade
The United States on Tuesday denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s presidential election amid the ongoing civil war as a “disgrace.”
“Today’s presidential election in Syria is a disgrace,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “Assad has no more credibility today than he did yesterday.”
The election is expected to deliver an overwhelming victory for Assad but which his opponents have dismissed as a charade.
Rebel fighters, the political opposition in exile, Western powers and Gulf Arabs also said no credible vote can be held in a country where swathes of territory are outside state control and millions have been displaced by conflict.
At least 162,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against Assad’s rule erupted in March 2011, triggering a savage crackdown.
More than half the population have fled their homes as extremist groups have flooded into Syria to take advantage of the power vacuum.
Washington blames the chaos on Assad’s rule and has demanded he give way to a transitional government.
“Elections should be an opportunity for the people of a free society to be consulted and to play an important role in choosing their leaders,” Harf said, according to AFP.
But Tuesday’s elections had “intentionally denied millions of Syrians the right to vote,” Harf said, adding the Syrian regime “continues to massacre the very electorate it purports to represent and protect.”
“Detached from reality and devoid of political participation, the Assad regime’s staged election today continues a 40-year family legacy of violent suppression that brutally crushes political dissent and fails to fulfill Syrians’ aspirations for peace and prosperity.”
But in a swipe at the U.S. administration, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, told CNN he had retired from his post in May as “I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy.”
“We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground, and we have a growing extremism threat,” said Ford, who worked for almost three years with the Syrian opposition.
“There really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy except the removal of about 93 percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents.”
Asked about Ford’s comments, Harf said he was now a “private citizen... entitled to his own views.”
She agreed though that administration of President Barack Obama shared Ford’s “frustration” at a situation in which she said was “there are no easy answers.”
“When you have a brutal dictator who is willing and able to kill people, like he’s killed, with chlorine, potentially, with chemical weapons, with barrel bombs, it’s a really tough challenge,” Harf said.
“We have a lot of tools at our disposal that we’re using, but there is no solution that will happen overnight.”
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