Phantom democracy

Syrian lawmakers gather during a session to vote for a new election law, at the Syrian parliament in Damascus, Syria, March 11, 2014. (AP Photo/SANA)

Ahead of presidential polls, the Syrian parliament Friday set a further requirement for candidates – that they have been permanent residents in the country for the last 10 years – just in case anyone was in any doubt that the poll would pose no threat to democracy.

While President Bashar Assad has not yet announced that he will stand, it would be a major surprise if he did not. And with this latest requirement, no genuine opposition figure will be able to run against him.

When the Syrian uprising started, three years ago this weekend, peaceful protesters sought freedom, justice and democracy. Instead, their rights have been reduced further, and not only that, but their resistance has also been met with barrel bombs. Nine million have been displaced, and children are dying of starvation. The country has been destroyed.

But while Assad’s oligarchs attend “peace” talks in Geneva, and allege that they are seeking a way out of the crisis, it is clear that this could not be further from the truth. Assad seeks re-election to ensure his family’s reign over the country will be cemented for years to come.

And over these last few years, as Assad has bided his time, and peddled commitment to talks, his regime has simply been allowed to re-arm, all the while becoming increasingly brutal.

To say that the international community is not concerned about Syria is to do it a disservice; it cares deeply, but only when it is affected by events. Worryingly, the only thing that looks likely in Syria’s future any time soon is not peace, but secessionism.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 15, 2014, on page 7.




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