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MOSCOW, June 03. /ITAR-TASS/. Syria, ravaged by four years of a sanguinary civil war, is holding the first-ever contested presidential election. For the past fifty years, Syria’s presidents were elected in national referendums, and on all occasions there was only one candidate nominated by the ruling party. Russian observers have already described the ongoing election with the participation of three candidates as historic.
Alongside the incumbent, Bashar Assad, there are two other candidates - Communist Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar, from Aleppo, and businessman Hassan Abdel Illyahi an-Nuri, a former government minister, who leads the National Initiative for Reform. The former is pressing for the interests of the working-class people harmed by the crisis, the latter believes that struggle against corruption and support for the middle class are a priority.
The United States has described the Syrian election as a farce. Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that, according to the law that the Syrian parliament adopted earlier this year, a presidential candidate is to have a ten-year residence qualification, which is an obstruction to the oppositional activists in foreign exile.
External opposition activists have been saying the same all along. This is what presidential candidate Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar told ITAR-TASS in an exclusive interview. “The external opposition calls the election a show, but this type of comment was quite expectable, because they wish the war to go on. They (external opposition) by no means seek a real political settlement of the conflict. They want murder and destruction to continue, which would enable them to stay afloat,” he said. In the meantime, he said, “the election is a real political solution, because it is based on an expression of the people’s will.” Any other decision would be tantamount to attempts to impose solutions on the people who do not tolerate any dictating, he added.
“The election of Syria’s new president will be the country’s step towards creating a genuine democracy,” the other alternative candidate, an-Nuri, told ITAR-TASS in an exclusive interview. He said terrorism in Syria was a problem not only for the Syrians, but for the whole world. “As long as the militants will be getting support from the outside, terrorism will be very hard to subdue,” he said with certainty.
In turn, Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar has called for “the elimination of all hotbeds of terrorism that endanger civilians’ peaceful life". Hajjar said his election platform as a representative of the patriotic opposition was in no way different from that of Damascus, when it comes to defending national sovereignty. Nevertheless, he believes that the causes that sparked an acute crisis in Syria have not disappeared yet: unemployment keeps growing and the government’s economic policies must be reconsidered.
“There is a risk the armed opposition may disrupt the voting. This trend cannot but cause Russia’s concern, because we are considering it as a continuation of the operation Arab Spring, which the United States started in the Middle East three years ago. Syria is an outpost of statehood in the struggle against armed government coups,” a member of the observer mission at the Syrian presidential election, Federation Council member Igor Morozov, told the daily Izvestia in an interview.
“The armed opposition in Syria represents a wide spectrum of jihadists on the payroll of many countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, enjoying the backing of the European Union and the United States. Besides, the opposition in Syria is closely linked with al Qaeda. Despite this fact, US President Barack Obama said several days ago that the United States would go ahead with supporting it in every possible way, and US military will provide training services," Morozov said.
The general forecast is an overwhelming majority of the population will support the incumbent president.
“Many are aware that Assad is confronted not with the opposition, but with the United States and its NATO allies, who are manipulating extremists. For the Middle East, Assad’s victory will symbolize the victory of statehood and the victory of presidential forces over the forces of jihadist evil, US hegemony and the world’s monopolarity,” the expert added.
“Russia attaches great importance to the presidential election in Syria, because it was the Russian leadership who spent so much effort to prevent the Syrian crisis from entailing military intervention by the West. The West was prepared to intervene because Damascus had great stockpiles of chemical weapons. Now a large share of Syria’s chemical weapons is under international control, including Russian and US control, and a large share of it has been eliminated,” the Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, Andrei Klimov, has said.
“A direct contested presidential election in Syria, which Russia supports and the West calls in question, is the sole means that there exists in the civilized world to identify the people’s will and to adjust the country’s political course,” Klimov said.
“The color revolutions that were central to the Arab Spring scenarios are an utterly impermissible way of changing the state system. After the heavy loss of life in hot spots, Washington has been keen to take care of the lives of its soldiers. The United States has been triggering color revolutions around the world as continuation of wars with the regimes it does not like. Syria is not very far away from Russia, and support for the presidential elections in that country is part of the efforts to maintain a proper level of security in the region,” Klimov said.
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