On Monday, the Syrian government announced that it will hold presidential elections on June 3. For the first time in four decades, Syrians will be able to vote for contenders other than an Assad family member.
In the quiet port city of Tartous, a government stronghold in the Alawite heartland, daily life continues largely undisturbed by fighting. The majority of Tartous’ residents remain pro-Assad, and say they are planning rallies to show their support in the election countdown.
*Now a third party has emerged in Tartous, calling itself the “third camp.” It supports neither the government nor the opposition, and demands peaceful change be brought about democratically. *
We spoke to Tartous residents – pro-government, pro-opposition, and third party – to get their take on the upcoming elections.
Samer, 26, pro-opposition:
The election by itself is meaningless, but it could be the right catalyst to bring about a change in the current conflict. It could be an opportunity for both camps to try and make [political] gains: The government will try to use the [elections] to reaffirm its popularity, while the opposition will use it to show the government’s carelessness with Syrian [lives].
Pro-government groups will take to the streets. We might be forced to leave work to attend pro-government rallies, and we might even be forced to elect Assad.
Vegetable vendor, pro-government:
We will take to the streets and chant for Assad, our leader. I will vote for him with my blood because he is the only one who can protect us from the armed terrorists.
Taxi driver, pro-government:
We will not count votes. Bashar al-Assad is our president, before and after the elections. Still, we will take to the streets for the world to see that we are with him and that we want him to be our forever leader.
Ali, 30, third camp:
The rebels are committing a grave mistake by ignoring the elections, because it means the Assad regime is still in control and that they have failed to achieve anything. Similarly, the regime is also committing a grave mistake by going ahead with the elections because it will only lead to more violence. The elections should have been postponed until after the armed conflict ends.
The results are already known. The elections aren’t important because they are a democratic voting process, but rather because they are a tool used by the authorities in their struggle against their opponents.
Abu Mohammad, 50, pro-opposition:
The elections will neither reflect the Syrian people, nor will it affect the fighting on the ground, but it carries one positive note, which is having Assad accept the idea that there are other candidates, even if only theoretically. This might pale in comparison to the great sacrifices of the Syrians, but at least, it allows some [maneuvering space] for the future.
The elections won’t be democratic. It is simply to show that most Syrians solely support Assad, because one can’t talk about democracy during war. We have to wait for our salvation from the terrorists and the traitorous opposition [that operates by proxy]. Only then can Syria hold democratic elections, which Assad could win or lose.
Um Mohammad, pro-opposition:
These elections are useless. They only show that the government is resilient. That’s it.