Damascus, Syria — Nearly 12 million Syrians cast their ballots on June 3 at 9,601 open polling sites across Syria and in Syrian embassies around the world. With a turnout of 72 percent, President Bashar al-Assad from the Ba’ath Party won over 88 percent of the vote.
Communist legislator Maher Hajjar got 372,301 votes (3.2 percent). Hajjar was known for leading the protest movement in the spring of 2011 and called for better programs and assistance for the poor. Prominent businessperson Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri received 500,272 votes (4.3 percent).
In Homs, Latakia, Damascus, Suwayda, Aleppo and across most of the country, election day was marked by spontaneous parades, car caravans and mass rallies of thousands of people. The Syrian people showed jubilation at accomplishing a popular election amid insurgent violence.
Polls stayed open until midnight to accommodate the massive turnout. For millions of Syrians, this election meant more than an expression of their right to vote. They were celebrating their very right to exist free from foreign domination and violence.
The U.S.-supported armed insurgents declared their intent to disrupt the Syrian election through violence. The day before the elections, they bombed Aleppo, the biggest industrial center and second-largest city in Syria, killing at least 20 and injuring 80. Yet that didn’t stop thousands of people in the city from voting the next day.
In Lebanon and Jordan, hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians waited for hours to vote at the Syrian embassies. So many people wanted to vote in Lebanon, where over 1 million Syrians now live, that the voting had to be extended for a second day. Thousands of displaced Syrians also found a way back into their country to vote.
It was a stunning blow to U.S. and European claims that this election was not legitimate. Syrians voted in a total of 43 embassies across the world.
However, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Belgium, the United States and Canada did not allow Syrians to vote at their embassies. Some 25 Syrians from Arab Americans for Syria and the Syrian American Forum had to fly home to vote and show support for their government.
Destruction of Syrian civilization made in USA
For more than three years, Syria has been under attack by right-wing insurgents.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that more than 160,000 people have died because of the fighting, including over 62,000 pro-government fighters, over 53,000 civilians and around 26,000 right-wing insurgents. Many others are unaccounted for. Over 13,000 foreign troops have died in Syria on the side of the insurgents.
Over 100,000 Syrians have voluntarily organized people’s militias and joined side by side with the army to defend their country. Unemployment and poverty have skyrocketed due to the massive destruction of constant war.
Tens of thousands of insurgents, a huge percentage from North America, Asia, Europe and Australia, have been the instigators of violence. They have received hundreds of millions of dollars in support from the United States, Canada, Europe, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
According to Syrian officials, insurgents have come from 87 different countries. They are waging a proxy war for the U.S. and its goal of regime change, and they are responsible for killing a vast majority of the people who have died. While many fight for religious reasons, others do so because their family members’ lives are threatened if they don’t join the insurgent armies.
Damascus, considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, is the site of nearly hourly insurgent mortar bombing. Irregular warfare, involving bombs often carried by pickup trucks as well as suicide bombings, are some of the preferred tactics of the so-called “rebels.”
In 2011, the U.S. and its allies likened the protest movement in Syria to other uprisings in the Arab world. But those who protested are now supporting President Assad, including presidential candidate Hajjar. Rather than a revolution, the war in Syria is an attempted counterrevolution.
The insurgents have bombed over 600 hospitals and medical facilities, including one of the largest cancer centers in Asia, which treated all cancer patients for free. Every day they attack bridges, highways and power plants, causing power outages for millions of Syrians. Entire textile factories have been occupied and moved to Turkey, where they are reopened for profit. Oilfields producing 380,000 barrels a day are now controlled by Al Nusra, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda. This oil previously brought in $12 billion a year, which the Syrian government used to provide subsidized food, jobs, housing, free medical care and free education at all levels.
Despite this tremendous violence and devastation, the Syrian government has continued to grow in popularity, as shown in the elections. Rather than going into exile, Assad has become more prominent. Instead of restricting the political process, he has opened it up and moved for a political end to the violence.
Washington’s hypocritical response
President Barack Obama, speaking last month at West Point, said the U.S. would “coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab World to push for a political resolution of this crisis.” Then he announced hundreds of millions in aid to so-called “moderate” insurgents in Syria.
Just days before the election, the U.S. congratulated Egyptian coup leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for his “resounding” election victory. Yet voter turnout in Egypt was so low that the election had to be extended to three days and even then less than half the electorate voted. Over the last year, the military has gunned down supporters of the previous government and imprisoned its leaders.
Two of Washington’s main partners in the war on Syria are Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Both are monarchies that do not have elections, freedom of speech or any respect for human rights.
International delegates observe historic election
Election observers from 32 countries, including elected officials from the Philippines, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tajikistan, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Russia and north Korea, as well as activists and scholars from the United States, Canada, Ireland, Pakistan, Bahrain and India, observed polling places across the country on election day.
They were invited by Dr. Muhammad Jihad Al-Lahham, speaker of the People’s Assembly of the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as leaders of the High Constitutional Court and officials of the High Judicial Committee for Elections. Observers had free rein over the areas they visited on election day.
William Farinas, of the National Assembly of Venezuela, toured the southern city of Suweida during the election, along with elected officials from Brazil and Bolivia and activists and journalists from the United States. Farinas told Workers World: “We have had a profound relationship between Syria and Venezuela because of migration and because of our active relationship against U.S. imperialism. This election is crucial for oppressed people across the world in our fight against the gigantic monster of imperialism.”
The participating delegations concluded that the elections happened constitutionally and in a “transparent and fair democratic way.” The delegates acknowledged the huge participation of the Syrian people in the elections, despite threats of violence from insurgents.
They concluded: “We affirm the responsibility of the United States and its allies for the crimes committed against the people of Syria, and we call upon these countries that support state-sponsored terrorism to cease and desist.”
Recently, the army retook Homs, Syria’s third-largest city. On election day, the people of Homs posted pictures of over 900 martyrs in the city center, representing some of those killed by insurgents.
The elections are a huge step forward for the Syrian people. They pave the way for a new stage in the struggle against imperialism and toward a resolution of three years of war caused by foreign interference. They give new hope to the millions of refugees as well as the millions inside Syria who want peace and sovereignty.
Scott Williams, representing the International Action Center, was part of the international delegation in Syria for the 2014 elections. He spent election day in Damascus and Suweida.