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BEIRUT, February 26 (Itar-Tass) — A high turnout is registered from early Sunday morning at polling stations in Syria, holding a referendum on the draft of a new Constitution, reports local television.
Residents in many cities stage rallies in support of President Bashar Assad and the programme of reforms announced by him.
“Yes to construction of a renewed Syria! No to terror, anarchy and fratricidal strife!” say slogans, held by demonstrators. A new Constitution turns down the one-party regime and approves a system of political pluralism in Syria. From now on, the country’s president is elected on an alternative basis during general elections rather than by a referendum.
A citizen at the age of 40 (Muslim by faith) may run for the presidency. His candidacy is to be backed by 35 out of 250 deputies of the national parliament. The president is elected for a term of seven years, but he cannot run for the post more than two terms.
Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Jalali said that “the authorities took all measures to ensure an honest and transparent referendum, meeting aspirations of citizens for free and democratic life”. A total of 14.6 million Syrians have the right to participate in the plebiscite.
Given a positive outcome of the referendum in Syria, parliamentary elections on a multi-party basis are to be held in the republic within 90 days.
The voting is held under conditions of increased security measures, taking into account the threat of terror sallies. According to pouring in reports, operations against armed gangs continue in several districts of the country. Gangs of mutineers were surrounded in Idlib, a province bordering Turkey.
According to the Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, outrageous attacks were made on Christian temples in the Hamidia residential area in Homs, situated 165 kilometres north of Damascus. Gunmen also ransacked and burnt down several shops. Army reinforcements that entered the city, blockaded the main seats of armed resistance in the districts of Bab Amru, Basatin Jubar and Sultania.
Members of armed gangs started surrendering to law enforcement bodies in some areas of Homs. As many as 130 gunmen in the resort city of Zabadani, situated 45 kilometres west of the capital, also laid down arms voluntarily.