Syrian opposition denounces Bashar al-Assad's election as a sham

Amid more violence and calls for a boycott, only a trickle of voters turn out in restive provinces


Syrians went to the polls yesterday in the country's first multi-party parliamentary elections in 50 years, as swathes of the country went on strike and barely a trickle of voters was reported at ballot boxes in restive provinces.

The vote for 250 seats in the Syrian parliament – contested by more than 7,000 candidates – has been billed by the regime as a milestone that shows its commitment to reform. However, opposition groups had called for a boycott, writing it off as a sham that would do little to loosen President Bashar al-Assad's grip on power or bring any change to a 14-month old conflict that has claimed more than 9,000 lives.

The streets of the capital, Damascus, were adorned with all the trappings of a heated campaign race, but despite a referendum in February that paved the way for parties other than the ruling Baath Party to participate, there has been little political debate or sign of anyone standing on a platform that opposes the government.

The Syrian parliament has long been seen as little more than a rubber stamp for the Assad regime.

"I haven't seen anyone talking about a real programme for the next four years," said a 28-year-old from Damascus. "I didn't vote because nobody represents me and I don't think it would make any difference if I did."

State television ran blanket coverage, showing queues outside some polling stations as they opened at 7am. In one Damascus polling station, authorities said that 137 people had voted in the first three hours, but reporters from the Reuters news agecny observed only three people voting there in 40 minutes.

Some electors said they hoped the process would bring change. Hind Khalil, 23, a voter in Damascus told Reuters she would vote for some independent candidates as well as members of the new parties. "They have fresh ideas," she said. "I hope they will work for the welfare of the country and for combating corruption and bribery."

While the regime can expect some of its strongest support in the capital, in war-ravaged cities like Homs and Hama activists said there was little sign of elections at all, saying most residents had boycotted the vote.

"There is fighting and shooting and the humanitarian conditions are really terrible; nobody is even talking about the elections," said Saif Al Arabi, a member of the Homs Revolutionary Council. "Even if we did want to vote there are definitely no ballot boxes in opposition neighbourhoods."

The southern province of Deraa, the birthplace of the uprising, and the opposition stronghold of Hama were among areas that shut down for a general strike yesterday to protest against the vote. A video posted online shows the deserted streets and shuttered shops in Hama's centre, while another showed a similar scene in the village of Qalaat al-Madeeq.

The elections, originally scheduled to take place in September but postponed for President Assad to launch a "reform" process, took place against amid continued violence.

As the polls opened, fierce clashes were reported in neighbourhoods of Homs, where activists said government forces had launched an assault to rout rebel fighters. Three were killed in Deir ez-Zor, near the Iraqi border, where clashes took place for a second day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, putting the death toll across the country at seven.

Suggested Topics
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English and Drama Teacher needed in Wrexham

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher needed in Wrexham The ...

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher The school, the childW...

English Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher The school, th...

Maths Teacher (One day per week)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Maths Teacher (one day per week) Gr...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits