Syria is set to hold a presidential election on May 26, Speaker of the People’s Council of Syria Hammouda Sabbagh (Ba’ath Party) said on Sunday (April 18). Syrians abroad will be “able to vote at embassies” on May 20, Sabbagh said in a statement, adding that the door for nominations will be open as of Monday for 10 days. Candidates must have lived in Syria for the last 10 years, which prevents key opposition figures in exile from standing. Candidates must also have the backing of at least 35 members of the parliament.
“I call upon Syrians to practice their right in choosing the president of the Syrian Arab Republic” the Speaker said. As per Syria’s 2012 constitution, a president may only serve two seven-year terms — except for the president elected in the 2014 poll.
President Bashar al-Assad who took power following the death of his father Hafez in 2000 and won the previous election in 2014 with nearly 90 percent of the vote, is not expected to face serious opposition.
His Baath party won an expected majority in Syria’s parliamentary elections last year. He has not yet officially announced he will stand for re-election, Al Jazeera reported, but he is expected to do so.
This year’s vote comes after Syrian government forces and Russian troops re-seized the vital northern city of Aleppo and other opposition-held areas, placing Damascus in control of two-thirds of the country. Opposition fighters now control a small pocket of land in the country’s north-western region.
The poll also comes amid a crushing economic crisis as the country went through a tough year in 2020 due to continued war, U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19. The Syrian pound, which began to slide in late 2019 hit a new low of 4,000 to the dollar in March.
Syria is facing a ravaging civil war for a decade now which has left at least 500,000 people dead and millions displaced.
A cumulative total of $226 billion in gross domestic product was lost due to the civil war from 2011 to 2016, according to the World Bank. Economic experts believe that 2020 was the worst year economically for Syria during the decade-long civil war.
With reporting by Al Jazeera and agencies