Landslide win for Assad in polls, Damascus in celebratory mode

DAMASCUS (TIP): A little after 10pm on June 3 when Syrian People’s Assembly speaker announced Bashar al-Assad as the presidential election winner, his words found an echo on Damascus streets. Young men and women began dancing at the city centre square. Cars whizzed past with girls and boys waving Syrian flags. Soldiers fired celebratory gun shots and the sky was filled with firecrackers. Feroz Junaid (22), who lost his arm in an attack a year ago, waved a photograph of Assad with his other arm.

“Barroh, baddam, nafdik ya Bashar (We sacrifice our blood and spirit for Bashar),” chanted a young woman. Basil Abdel Rehman and his wife, Rasha, walked for two hours to the city centre to celebrate Assad’s victory. Assad won over 10 million (88.7%) votes, while US-educated businessman Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri 500,000 (4.3%) and Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar over 300,000 (3.2%). His opponents dismissed the election as a sham and maintain the narrative in Assad-controlled territories does not reflect the larger Syrian reality.

But independent observers, including parliamentarians from a number of countries, declared the polling “free and fair”. TOI visited 10 odd poll booths in the countryside around Damascus and found people cheering and dancing after the election results were declared. Men and women, whose children were tortured and killed in the war over the last three years, openly voted for Assad. Many of them wore T-shirts with Assad’s photos. They say the sentiment across much of the country runs contrary to the Western narrative that the election was stage-managed.

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