The Syrian Constitutional Court selects two obscure personalities to oppose Bashar al-Assad in the presidential election.
Syria’s higher constitutional court chose a former minister and member of the opposition tolerated by Damascus to face Bashar al-Assad in presidential election this month.
The body appointed by Assad on Monday approved three out of 51 candidates to run in the May 26 poll, including the 55-year-old president himself, widely expected to win a fourth term.
Jihad al-Laham, the president of the court, told a press conference broadcast on state television that Abdallah Salloum Abdallah, minister of state from 2016 to 2020, had been approved to run for the presidency.
The third candidate was named Mahmoud Marei, a member of the so-called “tolerated opposition” long described by exiled opposition leaders as an extension of the regime.
Damascus regards the elections as the system of government functioning normally despite the war. The opposition and Western countries see it as a farce to keep Assad in power indefinitely and go to negotiations to end the conflict.
The other 48 requests were dismissed for “non-compliance with constitutional and legal requirements,” said the president of the court, without giving further details. They have until May 7 to appeal.
Candidates had to secure the support of at least 35 members of parliament, each of whom was allowed to support only one candidate.
Exiled opposition members are de facto excluded by an electoral law which stipulates that candidates must have lived in Syria continuously for at least the past 10 years.
The election will be the second since the start of a decade-long conflict that has killed more than 388,000 people and forced more than half of the pre-war Syrian population from their homes.
Damascus invited lawmakers from allied countries such as Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela and Cuba to observe the electoral process.
In New York last week, Western members of the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, rejected in advance the result of the May 26 poll, a position denounced by Russia as “unacceptable”.
Al-Assad, who has already been in power for 21 years, was elected by referendum in 2000 and 2007. In the first multi-candidate ballot in 2014, only two candidates besides al-Assad, out of 24 candidates, were authorized to present themselves. .
The campaign will start on May 11, while Syrians abroad can vote in their embassies May 20.
Al-Assad has taken steps in recent months to allay public discontent fueled by anger over the erosion of living conditions and the falling currency, including by increasing state wages, cracking down on currency speculators and bringing the official exchange rate closer to the black market.
His opponents claim that some of the new measures, such as cheap loans, favor his politically and economically powerful allies, including members of his minority Alawite sect who dominate the state and security forces.
On Sunday, al-Assad issued an amnesty lifting sanctions against some crooks, currency speculators, smugglers and petty criminals, which relatives hope could lead to the release of some civic activists jailed in recent months.