Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the Syrian presidential election in 2021 would be open to anybody who wants to run and that there would be numerous challengers for the presidency.
Assad, who made the comment in an interview broadcast on Monday on Russian state-funded television channel RT, faced two challengers at the 2014 election which he won by a landslide, but which his opponents dismissed as a charade.
“Last time we were three and this time of course we are going to have as much as they want to nominate. There are going to be numerous nominees,” Assad said.
Assad lambasted US and European sanctions on Damascus, which he said intended to inspire ordinary Syrians to blame, and rebel against, his goverment.
“Those people were expected to rise against their government during the different stages of the war but they did not. They were supposed to support the terrorists – the ‘moderate rebels’ and ‘angels’ of White Helmets – but the people did not and stood with their government,” said Assad.
Western attempts to topple the government in Damascus “did not work because people knew the whole story and knew where their interests lie,” Assad said.
In July the US treasury department announced the sanctioning of 16 individuals and entities associated with an international network benefiting the Assad regime, including Syrian businessman Samer Foz.
In January, the European Union sanctioned Foz and 15 other individuals and entities for using their ties with the Syrian regime for their own financial benefit.