In war-torn Syria, Assad makes bid for fourth presidential term

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad formally announced yesterday he will run for re-election in war-torn Syria, and was expected to win a fourth seven-year term in the largely symbolic May 26 vote.

The elections would be the second held during the course of the country’s 10-year conflict and the second following a constitutional change that allows for multiple candidates to run for the top job. But Assad, who has been in office for over 21 years, is unlikely to face any serious competition. In the last elections in 2014, he faced two contenders and won by a landslide, securing nearly 90 per cent of the vote.

Many Western countries have placed Assad and his allies on a sanctions list and view the elections as a sham aimed at giving the incumbent president a veneer of legitimacy.

Divided and exiled, Syria’s opposition is effectively barred from fielding any candidates. The 2014 constitutional amendment allowing for multiple candidates includes the conditions that any candidate must have lived in Syria for the past 10 years and cannot have any other citizenship.

A Syrian election official waits for voters at a polling station with posters of President Bashar Assad during the Parliamentary election in Damascus, Syria. PHOTO: AP