Syria’s exiled opposition has called parliamentary polls Sunday in government-held areas of the war-torn country a “farce” as millions abroad and in opposition-held territory are not taking part.
President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath party and its allies are expected to take most of parliament’s 250 seats in the third such polls to be held since the civil war started nine years ago.
“The regime has not known (real) elections since it seized power 50 years ago,” said senior opposition figure Nasr al-Hariri, referring to the date Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad became president.
“Everything called an election has been a farce under security and military grip... to form a sham parliament for the regime to use to pass legislation to serve the gang in power,” he said.
“All that has changed today is that half the Syrian people have been forced to flee,” he told AFP.
The conflict has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions more from their homes since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Sunday’s vote comes as most of Syria’s political opposition is in exile, and millions of Syrians living abroad after fleeing the violence are ineligible to vote.
Endless rounds of UN-sponsored peace talks between the government and the opposition in exile have failed to stop the conflict, and have been overtaken in recent years by a parallel negotiations track led by regime ally Russia and opposition-backer Turkey.
Opposition figure Obeida Nahhas said on Saturday that the elections were a “blatant charade” that had been ongoing for 50 years.
“The length of the era of dictatorship and tyranny has produced a situation -- that does not reflect the opinion of the popular majority...that has emptied elections of their true democratic meaning,” he said.