International observers arrive in Syria ahead of elections
Damascus, Syria – On May 23, an international solidarity delegation arrived in Syria to observe elections set to take place on Wednesday, May 26, when voters will decide the next president of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Syria has been under attack since 2011 when a mix of reactionary militias and foreign mercenaries, some armed and funded by the U.S. and its regional allies, violently seized control of parts of the country with the aim of toppling the anti-imperialist government. Lacking internal unity or coherent popular legitimacy, by 2018 these groups were largely defeated by Syrian forces. Portions of the country’s east and north, however, remain under occupation by U.S. and Turkish troops and their respective allied forces. Likewise, in Syria’s southwest, the Golan Heights region has been under Zionist occupation since 1967. The entire country suffers acute shortages of basic goods due to extreme U.S. economic sanctions.
The delegation consists of representatives from a variety of international solidarity groups, including the U.S.-based International Action Center (founded by the late former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark), the Anti-War Committee, and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, as well as the South Africa-based Ex-Political Prisoners Association. They are joined by journalists, writers and activists from the U.S., Palestine, Canada and France.
Syrian voters will choose between three presidential candidates: the incumbent President Bashar Al-Assad, opposition lawyer Mahmoud Ahmad Marei, and former cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah. Each candidate was put forth by competing political blocs, as outlined in Syria’s pluralist 2012 constitution. The delegation reports campaign billboards of the three candidates decorate the streets of Damascus.
Syrian expatriates – including many war refugees – are also casting votes at Syrian embassies around the world. Early voter turnout in neighboring Lebanon reportedly is already very high, with long voter lines even becoming target of xenophobic attacks. Syrian refugees in Germany, however, have been completely barred from voting at their embassies. Areas inside Syria still occupied by the U.S., Turkey, and armed groups they support will not hold elections.
The observer delegation met on Sunday with Syrian Minister of Information Imad Abdullah Sara, who emphasized that holding the election would help bring stability to all of Syria. He said that the U.S. could help democracy in Syria by ceasing its support for armed groups in breakaway regions, noting that the George Floyd uprisings and the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol showed that it was in fact U.S. democracy that is “barely functioning.”
The U.S. and its allies have preemptively declared Syria’s elections to be illegitimate.
The minister urged people outside Syria to think critically about how corporate U.S. media reports on Syria. He cited multiple examples of outlets using mislabeled footage that local Syrians could easily identify as not originating from the locations that reporters claimed. Nonetheless, he said those outlets were still always invited into Syria to document the situation objectively.
Fight Back! will be reporting from Syria with the delegation throughout the week.