Syrian parliamentary elections begin amid opposition boycott

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Damascus, April 13 (IANS) A strife-torn Syria began voting in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, with around 3,500 candidates vying for 250 parliamentary seats amid a boycott by opposition groups.

A total of 7,300 polling stations opened at 7.00 a.m. (local time) in government-controlled areas across the country, Xinhua reported.

Election sub-committees in government-controlled provinces announced full readiness to facilitate the voting process.

In February, President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree to hold parliamentary elections on April 13.

The last parliamentary elections were held in 2012, just months after the adoption of a new constitution in the strife-torn country.

In the current and the last elections, the opposition announced a boycott.

Munther Khaddam, a member of the National Coordination Body (NCB) said his group will boycott the elections for the second time “because it comes in the abnormal context and runs against the political track of the Geneva talks”.

However, the decision to hold the elections was interpreted by government loyalists as evidence that Damascus still has its independent decision, and that the elections and the Geneva talks, which are set to resume soon, are two separate tracks.

In Damascus, streets were festooned with posters of the candidates, as part of the government encouragement for the people to vote.

However, and unlike the pre-war times, when the candidates used to erect election tents to explain their programmes to the people, the residents in the capital and elsewhere only know the candidates by their posters this year, as the sessions for the candidates to present their programmes have been cancelled for security reasons.

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