On June 3, Syrians in regime-held areas will vote in Syria’s first presidential elections in decades. It is widely expected that the incumbent, Bashar al-Assad, will win by a large margin against two little-known lawmakers, Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, 46, and Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri, 54.
Last week, Syrians in Lebanon flooded the embassy in Beirut to cast their early votes for Assad. Despite the turnout, the Syrian opposition has called the election a farce. Speaking in Washington last month, Ahmad Jarba, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition, said it was taking place “on the dead bodies of Syrians,” and that it would give Assad “license to kill for many years to come.”
We asked Syrians from across the country to tell us who they’ll be voting for tomorrow, and why.
Louai, 24, University Student, Homs: I will vote for President Bashar al-Assad because we didn’t go suffer all these losses so someone else would lead the country. The hostility and opposition of the West to our president and asking him to step down are proof that he’s the best person to lead Syria. I can’t separate myself from reality, which shows that the West has never had the Syrians’ best interest at heart. In fact, the West fights [us] by imposing sanctions and by supporting Israel when it occupies our land. Israel has, more than once, shelled Syrian territories but none of the [western] countries said anything about it. That’s why Assad should remain president.
Mohammad, 44, Expert in Arabic Literature, Idlib: I won’t take part in the elections. First of all, the results are already known and the current president will win. This is what we’ve seen happen in Algeria and Egypt and that’s proof to what I’m saying. Secondly, the other two candidates are no real competitors to Assad. They are just regurgitating slogans we’ve heard many times before.
Suhail, 67, Retired Military Officer, Baniyas: I will vote for President Bashar al-Assad to lead Syria during the next constitutional [presidential] term, so as not to see the army divide and the country spiral into a civil war as happened in Iraq when it invaded Syria and similar to what’s happening in to Libya now. I believe it’s wrong to draw parallels between Syria and Egypt because Syria is being invaded by [parties] supported by the West, which provides money and arms to these groups.
Milad, 30, Pharmacist, Tartous: I will vote for President Bashar al-Assad because I am convinced he’s the one who can save the country from the current chaos and destruction by using his political finesse and close connections with our allies. This is true and most Syrians now know that the direct relations between the political leaders in Syria, Russia, China and Iran are very important in providing the needed support to Syria. I’m sure that Assad has the needed determination and will to rebuild Syria and have real reforms after the crisis is over. After three years, he knows exactly what is wrong with the country and how to fix it.
Thayer, 44, Employee, Aleppo: I won’t vote for Assad. I will vote for Maher Hajjar because he’s from Aleppo.
Sahar, 37, civil employee, Damascus: I will vote for President Bashar al-Assad because he’s a secular. In the last 14 years, he has developed Syria and improved the [living] conditions of most Syrians, despite the mistakes that happened in several sectors. I’m convinced he’s not responsible for these mistakes; rather, it is his entourage working on different levels within the state [that committed these mistakes.] I’m also convinced that after the last three years, Assad now realizes the weak spots within the state and he will work on fixing them.
Hussein, 31, Football Player, Daraa I will partake in the elections for the sake of participating. I will put a blank vote because I’m convinced none of the three candidates represents me. All their speeches are empty slogans that lack any clear platforms.
Salim, 47, Construction Worker, rural Damascus: I will vote for president Bashar al-Assad because it makes no sense to vote for Maher al-Hajjar who threatens to cut all diplomatic ties with the Gulf states and the US. This person doesn’t seem to realize the reality of the situation, and it seems he has no grasp of the basic notions of international [diplomacy], which says you can’t cut ties with these countries and that dialogue is the solution to crises. Also, I can’t vote for Hassan al-Nouri who doesn’t seem able to change anything. He failed at running the administrative development ministry. How can he run a country that’s in turmoil and that has the world intervening at every opportunity?
George, 23, University Student, Yabroud: I will vote for President Bashar al-Assad for two reasons. Firstly, he’s the best candidate among the three running; he’s got the most experience in international and diplomatic relations after running the country for 14 years. Secondly, Assad is the guarantee that minorities are protected and that there won’t be a civil war.
Zafer, 27, Shop Owner, Damascus: I won’t participate in the elections knowing very well that my participation, or lack thereof, will not change a thing. The elections will be held and Assad will win. All Syrians must refrain from voting because what’s the point of having these elections when there are thousands of [Syrians] displaced? Also, we can’t have an election when all candidates give the same speech and are of the same affiliations, and where the opposition isn’t represented.