DAMASCUS: President Bashar Assad is to face two challengers in Syria’s June 3 presidential election, the constitutional court said Sunday.
“The supreme constitutional court announces ... the acceptance of candidacy bids registered by ... Maher Abdel-Hafiz Hajjar, Hassan Abdullah al-Nuri and Bashar Hafez Assad,” a court official said.
Twenty-three candidates had initially registered to run against Assad in the election, which he is assured of winning. Most did not meet election criteria to run for office in a vote that has been mocked by the opposition and the West as a “farce.”
One of them was a Christian, and thus ineligible to become president, according to the Constitution.
Both Hajjar and Nuri are largely unknown to the public, although there was rampant speculation last week that the two – an MP and an ex-minister, respectively – would receive the stamp of approval by the authorities to run against Assad.
Hajjar is seen as close to ex-deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, who was dismissed last year for failing to abide by the prerogatives set out for him.
Candidates whose bids were rejected have until May 7 to appeal the court’s decision, said Majed Khadra of the constitutional court, whose statement was carried by state television.
While the election is the country’s first multicandidate vote, the rules effectively rule out any opponents to Assad’s regime from running.
Among them is the stipulation that anyone who has lived outside Syria in the past decade is excluded, effectively barring most prominent opposition figures, who live in exile.
At the same time, the vote will only be held in areas under government control.
The election is being held amid a brutal civil war that has killed more than 150,000 people since March 2011 and made millions homeless.
The regime has barred from voting those refugees who left the country illegally.