DAMASCUS: A total of 24 Syrians have registered to run in next month's presidential election, including incumbent President Bashar al-Assad, the Supreme Constitutional Court announced Thursday as the application deadline expired.
The vote, scheduled for June 3, is expected to return to power Assad, the embattled president who has faced a three-year-old armed revolt. But there has been no shortage of would-be challengers.
The court will now spend five days examining the 24 hopefuls to see if they meet electoral criteria to run for office in Syria's first multi-candidate presidential vote.
A maximum of three candidates are expected to figure on the final list.
"At 3:00 pm (1200 GMT) on Thursday May 1, 2014, the period for submitting presidential candidacy ended," court head Adnan Zureiq said, quoted on state television.
"Twenty-four requests for candidacy for the post of Syrian president" had been submitted and the court would begin work Friday to examine which candidates met electoral criteria.
The results, he said, would be announced within five days.
To add their name on the ballot, candidates must win approval from at least 35 of parliament's 250 lawmakers, as well as meet criteria including having lived in Syria for the past decade.
The rules effectively ruled out the participation of the country's leading opposition figures, who are in exile.
The Baath party headed by Assad has 161 deputies, all of whom are expected to give him their support, meaning no more than two other candidates are likely to make the cut.
Assad's would-be challengers are all largely unknown and include two women and one Christian man.
Syria's constitution requires that candidates for the presidency be Muslim, but a source in the court said this week that all applications would be received and then examined in line with the rules.
The constitution contains no explicit prohibition on female candidates, but its phrasing implies only male candidates are permitted.
The election will be the first since a constitutional amendment scrapped a system of presidential referendums.
Assad, who succeeded his father in office in 2000, after his death, is expected to sweep to victory despite the brutal civil war ravaging the country.
More than 150,000 people have been killed, and nearly half the population has been displaced by the fighting.
The conflict has left large swathes of Syria beyond the control of the government, which has not explained how it will organise voting nationwide.