Syria presidential election campaign begins

Damascus : Campaigning for Syria’s presidential election set for June begins on Sunday, the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court has announced.

The election is expected to extend President Bashar al-Assad’s reign in power. The court confirmed that the three candidates — Assad, Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar and Hassan Abdullah al-Nuri — can “launch their election campaign from Sunday,” state news agency SANA reported. Twenty-four candidates initially registered to stand, but most reportedly did not meet the criteria of the election.

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The presidential election is theoretically Syria’s first in more than half a century, as Assad and his father Hafez, who ruled with an iron grip from 1970 until his death in 2000, were named after referendums. The Syrian election, set to begin on June 3, has been mocked as a “farce” by the opposition and as a “parody of democracy” by the United States. The U.N. criticized Damascus’ decision to hold the vote is “incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Communique” about a democratic transition in Syria.
The election is being held amid the country’s bloody conflict, which began with largely peaceful protests in March 2011, but has turned into a civil war shadowed with sectarian overtones. The Syrian war left more than 150,000 people dead and made millions homeless. Due to the ongoing conflict, voting will be carried in areas under the government control.

Both Hajjar and Nuri are largely unknown to the public.

Hajjar is from Syria’s second city of Aleppo, which has been devastated by fighting that broke out there in 2012, and is an independent MP and former member of the communist party.

Nuri is a Damascus businessman who was a member of the internal opposition tolerated by Assad’s government.