Syrian Opposition Allies: A Change in Stance From Elections, Assad’s ‘Legitimacy’?

Changing international attitudes to the Syrian elections reflect questions about president Bashar al-Assad’s legitimacy.

The positions of Arab and foreign countries towards the Syrian presidential elections reflect a change in the overall “foreign environment” towards the war-torn country. The elections in turn shed light on the dramatic geographic changes that have taken place in Syria in recent years, the situation of Syrians inside the country and abroad and the changes in government and opposition policies.

Western criticism

On May 14, 2014, the foreign ministers of the “Friends of Syria Group” denounced the polls as a farce that “mocks the innocent lives lost in the conflict, utterly contradicts the (2012) Geneva communiqué and is a parody of democracy.”

The meeting was attended by then head of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces Ahmed al-Jarba, who was recognized by over a hundred countries as a “representative” of the Syrian people.

The United Arab Emirates and European countries refused to hold the elections on their territories.

On June 4, 2014, the Supreme Constitutional Court announced that the voter turnout stood at 73.42 percent. It added that some 11 million out of around 15 million registered voters had taken part in the polls. Assad was declared victor with 88.7 percent of the vote.

On the Arab and international scene, congratulations on the “victory” were sent out by former Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika, the leaders of Armenia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Venezuela, South Africa, the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Hezbollah and the BRICS group that includes Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

The elections drew sharp criticism from western and Arab countries. The G7 would later denounce the “sham” polls, declaring “there is no future for Assad in Syria.” The European Union, NATO, former Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi and ex-United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon all dismissed the elections.

Silence and mild criticism

Syria has witnessed radical changes in the seven years that have passed since the last presidential polls. The priorities in the region and world have changed as well.

Arab countries and the Arab League have not announced any positions ahead of the elections. Western countries and allies of the Syrian opposition were also focused on the “correct standards of the elections”, failing to mention the current polls.

The United Nations has also kept mum on the elections, as have the UAE, France, Arab and foreign countries that have allowed the voting to take place on their territories.

European diplomats are set to visit Damascus while the elections are underway. The polls will be “monitored” by representatives of countries that are allied to Damascus.

All of the above are factors to keep in mind when the elections results are declared at the end of the month. Other questions will follow, such as: What position will Arab countries adopt when Assad is declared the winner? Who will congratulate him? What about western countries? Will they remain united? What about the United States? How will the result impact the UN’s role in sponsoring the political process and constitutional reform? To what degree will Russia consider the elections a “turning point in opening a new chapter” between the Arabs and Europe with Damascus? What of the Syrians, their suffering and divisions?

 

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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