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MOSCOW, October 26. /TASS/. Two days after the Vienna meeting on Syria President Bashar Assad said he was prepared to discuss a constitutional reform and participation in an early presidential election. He made statement to this effect at a meeting with Russia’s parliamentary delegation, which was in Syria on a visit. Some experts argue that early elections may start the process of a political settlement in Syria. Others are rather cautious about the plan. They warn that amid civil war an election may be perceived as illegitimate by many.
As one of the delegates, State Duma member Alexander Yushchenko, of the Communist Party, has told TASS, Assad is ready to call parliamentary elections "on the basis of all political forces that wish to see a prospering Syria." Then, Syria’s current leader will be ready to discuss a constitutional reform and, if need be and if it is the people’s wish, to call a presidential election, "but only after victory over terrorism in Syria’s territory and the liberation of the country." Yushchenko said Assad "is absolutely certain about his chances," should an early election of the head of state be called.
"Assad is his country’s president current. More than 80% of Syria’s population resides in the territory he controls," the online daily VZGLYAD quotes the president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, as saying. "The sole factors that protect these people from elimination are the Syrian army, which obeys Assad, and Russian air strikes. Elections may give Assad legitimacy for a further political dialogue with all parties concerned. Assad will let all of Syria’s politicians join the political settlement. Those who wish to go on fighting will not participate in the elections anyway," Satanovsky said.
He sees no obstacles that might prevent moderate Islamists from taking part in the elections and joining the political process.
"Assad’s statement, bearing in mind his firm stance and reluctance to compromise, is clear evidence he is aware there must follow some transitional period and that elections can be held only afterwards," the vice-president of the Russian Centre for Strategic and International Studies, head of the international issues sector at the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies, Irina Zvyagelskaya, has told TASS. "This heralds a certain shift. But in general it is hard to say at this point if he has a clear strategy. We do not know how Assad and his supporters are going to stabilize the situation, in what manner the talks with the opposition will proceed, and whom they would like to talk to. Possibly, they prefer to keep quiet about that for the time being."
Zvyagelskaya finds it hard to imagine how parliamentary elections can be held in the current situation.
"Some sort of agreement must be reached first. Syria’s political system is in ruins," she said.
As for the presidential election is concerned, Assad may be re-elected again, which would trigger a very negative response both inside Syria and outside the country," Zvyagelskaya said. "Even if there is some other candidate, Assad still has a chance to gain a majority. He is a very popular public politician and part of Syria’s society does regard him as a real safeguard. But it is clear that in the current situation elections can be neither transparent, nor fair." "The very idea of an early presidential election may not be liked by the very same opposition the negotiations are to be held with," Zvyagelskaya said. "It is obvious that talks with the opposition should be held first thing and an agreement concluded on creating a government that would incorporate opposition representatives, too. Then, after sometime it will be possible to consider an election."
"If the presidential election is to be held only after the country has been cleared of terrorists, as Assad has promised, then it will be normal and legitimate in any case," the head of a section at the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies, Aleksei Sarabyev, told TASS. "The opportunity for holding a presidential election will depend on many factors."
As far as parliamentary elections are concerned, calling them now, when the war is going on and it is impossible to form constituencies or guarantee law and order at the polling stations, their legality can be easily disputed and the conflict will turn from bad to worse, he believes.
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