US says 'dubious' elections in Syria excluded a quarter of the population

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Syria’s parliamentary elections held over the weekend have been described as “dubious” and nearly a quarter of Syria’s population was not permitted to vote, a senior US official said Monday.

“Yesterday, the Assad regime held so-called Parliamentary Elections in Syria. Bashar Al Assad is seeking to present this dubious election as a success against alleged Western plotting, but in reality it is simply another in a long line of Assad’s stage-managed, unfree votes in which the Syrian people have no real choice,” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

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On Sunday, parliamentary elections saw people vote across government territory at more than 7,000 polling stations, including for the first time in former opposition bastions that the army has recaptured over the last two years.

Assad’s opponents denounced the vote as a farce, nearly a decade into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and made millions refugees.

Ortagus said that Syria had not seen any free and fair elections since “Assad’s Baath party came to power, and this year was no exception,” citing “credible reports of polling staff handing out ballots already filled in with Baath party candidates.”

Read more: Coronavirus forces Syria to postpone election for second time

The US official also said that there were reports of citizens being pressured to vote and that voter privacy was not guaranteed.

“In addition, Syrians residing outside the country – comprising nearly one quarter of Syria’s pre-revolution population – were not permitted to vote. This disenfranchised population includes the more than 5 million refugees driven out of the country by the regime’s relentless war against its own citizens.”

Ortagus said the elections were another attempt by the Assad regime to “confer false legitimacy on itself.”

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