DAMASCUS, Syria — President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was re-elected on June 3. The Syrian election was rife with corruption and lacked any unbiased oversight, causing them to be dismissed by United States officials. After al-Assad’s 14-year rule, during the worst humanitarian crisis the country has ever seen, his re-election serves as little more than a mockery of democracy and the millions of Syrian refugees.
Al-Assad won the June 3 Syrian election with almost 90 percent of the vote. His two opposition mates were Hassan al-Nouri, a businessman and former government minister, and Maher Hajjaw, a lawmaker. They received 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent of the vote, respectively. Both candidates were pre-approved by the Syrian government. Jen Psaki, White House spokesperson, referred to a law passed by Syrian parliament which states that only those who have lived in Syria for the past 10 years may run for president. The law effectively bars opposition figures who have been exiled from the country from declaring candidacy.
Furthermore, the election was not universal. Voting was only open in places controlled by al-Assad’s government. The election did not take place in the northern and eastern regions of the country, where rebel control is strong.
“We have been clear that this election is a farce…” Psaki said in a June 2 Daily Press Briefing. There was no structure in place to ensure credibility. The Syrian government denied that election monitors from the U.S., the European Union or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe would have any role.
Psaki dismisses the Syrian election on the grounds that “such a [democratic process]is inconceivable in Syria today, where the regime has crushed political dissent and nearly half the population is displaced by war…”
What began as a peaceful revolution in March 2011 has since escalated into the devastating civil war that rages today. Al-Assad, whose regime is backed by known terrorist organization Hezbollah as well as Iran and Russia, refuses to step down. Instead, he has led the charge on a three-year civil war.
The United Nations estimates 2.5 million people have fled Syria, while 9.3 million remaining in the country are in need of assistance. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ,) Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls the Syrian Civil War the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” citing Assad’s repeated gas attacks on his own people, and attributing 150,000 deaths to the war.
For some, the next steps regarding the crisis are clear. Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, stepped down from his position earlier this year. He stated he was “no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy”.
Ford advocates a firmer U.S. foreign policy stance on Syria. He says it is the moral imperative of the American people to help the Syrians. Ford explains this should be done by providing strong support to moderate Syrian rebels. He denies critics who claim that rebel groups are compromised by terrorists, and says that the U.S. knows which groups are affiliated with terrorist networks and which are not.
Menendez also voices his support for backing “the moderate Syrian opposition” in order to foster the right environment for a peaceful political transition.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry re-stated the U.S. policy toward Syria. The elections, he said, will have no impact on Syria’s status in U.S. foreign policy. “The elections are non-elections. A great big zero,” he said in a visit to Lebanon.
Kerry reiterated the U.S.’s support for a political transition and increased the total U.S. aid to Syria to $2 billion, making the U.S. the world’s largest donator of humanitarian aid to Syria.
Sources: CNN 1, CNN 2, Reuters, US Department of State, US Senate , The Washington Post