Europe’s Assad Dilemma: Brussels Slams ‚Illegitimate‘ Election in Syria

Written by | Saturday, May 29th, 2021

Syria’s polling stations opened on Wednesday (26 May) across government-held areas in a presidential election the European Union, several European countries and the United States have slammed as “neither free nor fair”, a sham vote orchestrated by President Bashar Assad to give him a fourth seven-year term. Syria’s state news agency said observers “noticed a large turnout” and the country’s public broadcaster showed people waving Syrian flags and pictures of al-Assad while some chanted his name in front of polling stations. The incumbent president told reporters at the polling station in the Damascus suburb of Douma that he did not give any weight to Western countries’ criticism of the elections. “The value of these opinions is zero,” he said.
„The elections that took place in Syria on 26 May met none of the criteria of a genuinely democratic vote, do not contribute to the settlement of the conflict,“ said EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell in a statement. „Elections in Syria should take place only within the framework of a genuine political process, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. They can only be credible if all Syrians, including internally displaced people, refugees and members of the diaspora, are able to participate in a safe, and neutral environment without threat of intimidation and in a free and fair political competition.“ Borrell also said that „the EU considers that the elections yesterday undermine efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict. It cannot lead to any measure of international normalization with the Syrian regime. The political process must be fully inclusive to ensure that all segments of Syria’s society are involved in shaping the country’s future unity and reconciliation.“
„Syria has been through ten years of war, destruction, and death. Yet Bashar Assad is still having himself elected president. It’s time for a strategy change in dealing with this country in need,“ Matthias von Hein commented on the Western countries‘ role in maintaining Assad in power. „One thing is certain: The old president will be the new one. It’s also clear that this election says nothing about the political interests of the Syrian people. It says all the more about the balance of power in the country, though.“ According to Hein, „major powers Russia and the United States are militarily engaged in Syria, as are regional powers Turkey, Iran and Israel. …Syria is a country in distress. … So far, Europeans have only been involved in humanitarian aid. The EU member states are by far the largest donors here. But the humanitarian approach is reaching its limits: It is limited to emergency care ? of internally displaced persons and of refugees. Economic recovery and reconstruction in Syria, however, are actively hampered by sanctions.“

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