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MOSCOW, April 23. /ITAR-TASS/. The forthcoming presidential election in Syria will not bring about any considerable change of the situation inside Syria or around it, but it will most probably herald the incumbent president Bashar Assad’s political victory, Russian experts believe.
The procedure of registering candidates for Syria’s June 3 presidential election began on April 21. For the first time ever the head of state will be elected on a contested basis, and not through a referendum in support of the existing authorities, contrary to the procedure used before. The candidates have not been named yet, but few doubt that the incumbent president will run for the post with the greatest chances to win.
Assad’s presidential term expires on July 17. Even some of his allies acknowledge that holding the voting properly will be a very daunting task. Millions of Syrians are considered as internally displaced persons, and part of the country is under the control of militants.
“Holding the election in Syria will by no means spell the end of the war. It will proceed in a very unstable situation,” the head of the Asia and Middle East Center at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISI), Yelena Suponina, has ITAR-TASS.
The expert believes that clearing that hurdle will be very important for Assad, because his adversaries have long expected that he would long step down before the end of the current presidential term. “The fact that he is still in office and will most probably participate in the forthcoming presidential election race and emerge the winner will spell his political and diplomatic victory.”
As far as the opposition is concerned, Assad’s opponents living in emigration are emphatically defiant of the elections and will not lift a finger to make the elections easier, Suponina said. But those opponents who are inside Syria and believe it is possible for them to cooperate with the government may even decide to put forward their own candidates.
Suponina said that the international community was split regarding the elections in Syria. Russia and Iran favor the elections, while Western countries and the opposition have already declared them illegitimate. By and large the international community’s split over Syria is still in place.
The election is unlikely to have any considerable effect on the front-line situation, though. Suponina believes that to a far greater extent it will depend on whether the United States begins to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition.
“Generally speaking, Syria in the near term will see a smouldering civil war and lasting split of the international community,” the expert said.
Political scientist Oleg Gorbunov has described Assad’s decision to call a presidential election as a “bold” step. “Firstly, this move, although it complies with the Syrian legislation, has not been coordinated with the Syrian opposition in Geneva,” he said in an article on the Politcom.ru website. “The moderate opposition, as represented by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), will hardly agree to legitimization of the current regime for another seven years.”
As negotiations in Geneva at the beginning of this year indicated, part of the FSA commanders tend to side up with radical Islamists who are prepared to continue fighting to the end, Gorbunov said. “Assad’s task now is to identify potential allies within the FSA and to approach them with lucrative proposals for a redistribution of powers at the level of the central government and in the regions.”
Gorbunov believes the current president’s chances of attaining victory are very high. “Given the certainty that the radical opposition will ignore the election and the voting itself will be held under the authorities’ control, Assad will most probably prove an uncontested candidate. Besides, the radical opposition has discredited itself with the mode of governance that it has used in the territories under its control.”
A lecturer at the Russian State Humanitarian University, Sergei Seregichev, believes that the Syrian opposition is keen to stay aloof from the election to do no nothing that may legitimize it. “Also, some opponents argue that the election gives the current regime a chance to take a break,” Seregichev said in an interview with the Voice of Russia radio station.
The possibility that the opposition may put forward a common candidate is close to zero, Sergeichev said. “The opposition factions have proved utterly unable to form at least a coordinating body, let alone agree on a common candidate," he concluded.
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