Canada Denounces Syria’s Controversial Presidential Election

May 26, 2021 Updated: May 26, 2021

Canada denounced Syria’s presidential election, held on Wednesday, which is expected to guarantee President Bashar al-Assad’s fourth consecutive seven-year term in office.

Global Affairs Canada issued a statement calling for a free and fair election in Syria, and also condemning the Assad regime for human rights violations.

“Free and fair elections will not be possible until an inclusive constitution is drafted that can form the basis of a credible pathway towards a political settlement or transition, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (UNSCR 2254),” Global Affairs Canada said on Wednesday.

“As is made clear by UNSCR 2254, free and fair elections must allow for UN monitoring and for all Syrians, including refugees and internally displaced persons, to participate, without fear of persecution.”

Global Affairs also called for an election that includes the meaningful participation of women and the absence of all intimidation tactics.

Assad has been in power since 2000, succeeding his father Hafez, who had ruled the country for 30 years.

This year’s election comes amid a battered Syrian economy, which results from the decade-long civil war, Western sanctions, political corruption, and the financial crisis in Lebanon, Syria’s main link with the outside world.

However, Assad still faces little contestation from his two opponents­—Mahmoud Ahmad Marie, the former secretary-general of small opposition party National Front for the Liberation of Syria, and Abdullah Salloum Abdullah, a member of the Socialist Unionists Party.

Syria’s Interior Minister Mohammad Rahmoun said 12,102 polling stations were set up across the Syrian governorates. He said there are more than 18 million eligible voters in Syria and abroad. Syrians living abroad voted last week.

Assad and his wife, Asma, cast their ballots at a polling station in the Damascus city of Douma, a rebel stronghold during the Syria Civil War, which began in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring-inspired protests against the Assad family.

The Syrian Army recaptured Douma in 2018, following the controversial usage of chemical weapons. According to a human rights group, the decade-long conflicts have left over half a million dead, and roughly 13 million civilians displaced.

“These elections do not signify the end of the Syrian people’s struggle,” Global Affairs stated.

“Canada encourages the international community to refuse any normalization of relations with the Assad regime, which refuses to engage meaningfully in the negotiation of a political solution and continues terrorizing its electorate with chemical weapons, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture.”

With files from The Canadian Press