A strong message

As planned, more than 10,000 polling stations are scheduled to be opened on May 26 for voters across Syria to cast their ballots to elect the President. This is the second time Syria has held a presidential election since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, aiming at sending a strong message about the efforts of President Bashar al-Assad's administration in the fight against rebels and to re-establish peace and stability across many territories.

However, difficulties on the ground caused by conflict and a serious humanitarian crisis have become a major challenge in advancing the political process in Syria.

The Syrian Supreme Constitutional Court has approved the application for candidacy of incumbent President Bashar al-Assad and two other candidates in this election. By law, a candidate, to be eligible to run for office, must be supported by at least 35 deputies in the 250-seat Parliament. President Bashar l-Assad, who has been in power since 2002, is seeking a fourth term as he has led the country through many hardships such as a long civil war that has devastated the infrastructure and the economy, as well as pushing the Middle Eastern country into deep division.

The conflict in Syria has entered its 11th year, having claimed the lives of more than 387,000 people, renderingmillions homeless or forced to leave home and live as refugees in other neighbouring countries. The administration of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, launched military operations and liberated much of the country's territory from the control of rebels and terrorists. However, many parts of Syria are still engulfed in conflict. Fighting between government troops and Turkish-backed forces continues in the northwest region, while the US military maintains in the northeast to back Kurdish-led forces in Syria.

The security situation in Syria is potentially risky and complicated. Rear Admiral A. Karpov, deputy head of Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria, recently warned that terrorists are preparing provocations using chemical weapons ahead of the presidential elections, blaming government forces for using chemical weapons against civilians. Before the war, Syria had a small industrial base in the northeast, now under the control of US backed Kurdish-led forces.

Food needs are supplied mainly from the fertile land on the Mediterranean coast. However, the Syrian economy stands on the brink as commodity prices escalate and inflation skyrockets. People are in a particularly difficult situation due to the serious consequences of the economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russia and Turkey are fulfilling their commitments to contain the conflict in northwest Syria. In an effort to mediate between the Syrian government and the opposition, the United Nations has established the Syrian Constitutional Committee comprising 150 representatives of Syria’s government, opposition and civil society. The fifth round of negotiations at this committee, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland at the end of January, was considered by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria G. Pedersen as “a disappointment”. Efforts to narrow differences between the government and the opposition in Syria have yet to make a breakthrough. Terrorism concerns remain, and the conflict could escalate at any time.

Thousands of Syrians took to the streets in the capital Damascus and several cities to join a march to show their support for President Bashar al-Assad ahead of the election. Although the West has criticised and questioned much about the election in Syria, the Damascus government has denied any outside interference and affirmed that the right to decide belongs to the Syrian people.