Only two candidates to face Assad in May vote

Syria’s constitutional court rejects more than 40 candidates.
Tuesday 04/05/2021
The Supreme Constitutional Court, the highest jurisdictional authority in Syria, receives the ballot box of the country’s Parliament members in the capital Damascus, on April 29, 2021.(AFP)
The Supreme Constitutional Court, the highest jurisdictional authority in Syria, receives the ballot box of the country’s Parliament members in the capital Damascus, on April 29, 2021. (AFP)

DAMASCUS--A Syrian former minister and a member of the Damascus-tolerated opposition will face Bashar al-Assad in this month’s presidential election, the constitutional court said Monday.

The Assad-appointed body approved only three out of 51 applications to stand in the May 26 ballot, among them the 55-year-old president himself, widely expected to win a fourth mandate.

The court’s president said in a news conference broadcast on state TV that Abdallah Salloum Abdallah, a state minister from 2016 to 2020, had been approved to run for president.

The third candidate was named as Mahmoud Marei, a member of the so-called “tolerated opposition” long described by exiled opposition leaders as an extension of the regime.

All 48 other applications were ruled out for “failing to meet constitutional and legal requirements”, the court president said without elaborating.

They have until May 7 to appeal.

Applicants needed to garner support from at least 35 members of parliament, each of whom is only allowed to back one candidate.

Exiled opposition members are de facto ruled out by an electoral law that stipulates candidates must have lived in Syria continuously for at least the past decade.

The election will be the second since the start of a ten-year conflict that has killed over 388,000 people and forced more than half of Syria’s pre-war population from their homes.

Portraits of President Bashar al-Assad at the Umawiyin square in Syria’s capital Damascus on May 3, 2021, ahead of this months presidential elections. (AFP)
Portraits of President Bashar al-Assad at the Umawiyin square in Syria’s capital Damascus on May 3, 2021, ahead of this months presidential elections. (AFP)

Damascus has invited lawmakers from allied countries such Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela and Cuba to observe the electoral process.

In New York last week, Western members of the UN Security Council, led by the United States, France and Britain, rejected the outcome of the May 26 poll in advance, a position denounced by Russia as “unacceptable.” In March, the US administration of President Joe Biden said it will not recognise the result of Syria’s presidential election unless the voting is free, fair, supervised by the United Nations and represents all of Syrian society.

Assad, who has already been in power for 21 years, was elected by referendum in 2000 and 2007.

For the first multi-candidate poll in 2014, only two candidates besides Assad, out of 24 applicants, were allowed to run.

Campaigning is set to start on May 11, while Syrians abroad can vote at their embassies on May 20.