Syrian election ends amid reportedly low turnout
AFP, April 23,
23, 2007 (AFP) - Voting for Syria's parliament ended on
Monday with reportedly low turnout and a widespread lack of
enthusiasm for the two-day polls which opposition activists
had urged supporters to boycott.
million Syrians were eligible to vote, according to the
official SANA news agency, which also reported that 2,500
candidates stood for the 250 seats in the assembly. Results
were expected to be announced on Tuesday.
The vote took
place "in total freedom and transparency," SANA said on
Monday, without giving turnout figures for the first day's
vote on Sunday.
"Turnout is low
but higher than yesterday," an official at a downtown
Damascus polling station told AFP shortly before polls
closed, walls behind him featuring posters of President
Bashar al-Assad with his father and predecessor Hafez.
elections are a national democratic celebration. Vote for
whoever you think is the most competent," read a nearby
interior ministry sign.
on Monday appeared low at several other polling stations
visited by AFP in the capital, an AFP photographer in
Damascus' poorer southern districts reported "relatively
high turnout" with people queueing to vote.
appeared split on whether the election, totally lacking in
suspense for most people, would bring any change.
Of the 250
seats, 167 are reserved for the ruling National Progressive
Front (NPF) coalition, led by Assad's Baath party. The party
itself is guaranteed 131 seats, or 52 percent of the total.
The other 83
seats are allocated to so-called independent candidates
"close to the authorities," according to lawyer Hassan
Abdel-Azim, spokesman for six banned, but largely tolerated,
parties operating under the umbrella National Democratic
it was "pointless to take part in an election whose results
are known in advance... The NPF will come out the winner,"
as it has done in all organised elections since 1973.
official Tishrin daily said last week that Syrians "have
lost their enthusiasm for the parliamentary elections."
second city of Aleppo, in the north, "candidates were
disappointed by the low turnout," the independent Al-Watan
daily reported on Monday.
Minister Bassam Abdel-Majid, in a statement on state
television, had urged Syrians to turn out in force: "Your
participation is a contribution to consolidating democracy
and activating the role of parliament in drawing up
decisions," he said. In a swipe at Washington, which had
said Syria's election was unlikely to be free and fair, an
official Syrian newspaper said Damascus had never needed
"democratic" advice from abroad.
Late in 2005,
opposition parties which are tolerated but have no legal
status launched an appeal for "democratic change" in Syria,
but the plea failed to bring positive action.
May, the authorities jailed 10 opposition figures who had
signed a statement seeking reform in the country's relations
with Lebanon, where Syria was the power-broker for nearly
demands, the opposition wants a modern law authorising the
creation of parties other than the Baath and its allies, and
abrogation of the state of emergency which has been in force