BEIRUT: The Syrian ambassador to Lebanon Saturday defended the embassy against a backlash created by the overwhelming number of voters who turned out to cast ballots in the presidential poll. Ali Abdel-Karim argued that the turnout should instead reassure the Lebanese.
“What some people have said about the election is contrary to the truth,” Ali told a local television station.
“It is unfortunate that some people have criticized the election at the embassy, particularly when the Syrian people were supporting their state,” he said.
“Such Syrian presence should reassure the Lebanese,” Ali added.
Of the Syrians who turned out to vote in Lebanon, the majority expressed support for President Bashar Assad, who is widely expected to secure a third seven-year term.
Several politicians criticized the scene of thousands of men and women waiting outside the Syrian Embassy in the Beirut suburb of Yarze to cast their ballots in the Syrian presidential election.
The large turnout was even discussed in the Cabinet during its session Friday night, with some ministers demanding precautionary measures be taken in case Assad wins the election.
Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi told Al-Joumhouria that the ministers discussed Wednesday’s election and the need for greater security measures.
"The scene is something we reject. It was as if the Syrian regime was sending a message to the international community that it, despite withdrawing from Lebanon in 2005, still has a million and half Syrians in Lebanon and can influence the Lebanese street," Azzi said.
Other politicians, primarily those within the March 14 coalition, demanded the government expel the Syrians who turned out to vote, arguing that their security was not at risk and they should return to Syria.
The Syrian ambassador said that his embassy cooperated with Lebanese security forces before it opened its doors to the voters, adding that they were in the process of counting the votes.
Lebanon is currently home for over 1.5 million refugees who have fled the crisis in neighboring Syria but the country has also been a place of labor for hundreds of Syrians.