Syrians pin hope on parliament polls for better rights

Damascus, April 13 (IANS) Syrian university students participated in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections, hoping the candidates would secure job opportunities for them.

In the Damascus University dormitory, students from various cities, including those from rebel-held areas, waited in queues to cast their ballots, Xinhua news agency reported.

Norhan, a student from the southern province of Daraa, where the country’s five-year-old conflict originated, said Syrian youth must participate in the elections to choose people capable of delivering their objectives.

“We should all participate and support the elections in order to express our opinions and choose the right person who will live up to our hopes, represent us and deliver solutions to our problems to provide a better future,” she said.

Her friend, Siham, said the elections are important for those coming from hotspots as it gives them a sense of belonging to their country, despite the fact that their cities have for long been out of the government’s control.

“We came from hotspots and are here today (Wednesday) to choose the candidate who can fulfil our demands, such as improving university education, regulating food prices, and most importantly secure us job opportunities,” she said.

Muhammad, another student from the northern province of Aleppo — also torn between the government and opposition militants, said the elections are a constitutional duty and a very important process towards efforts to rebuild the country.

“After five years of war, we must participate and vote to rebuild Syria, because Syria needs us, its youth. We must all join in, not just stand and watch from a distance.”

Syria’s parliamentary elections began on Wednesday, with some 3,500 candidates vying for 250 parliamentary seats.

Election subcommittees in government-controlled provinces announced their full readiness to facilitate the voting process.

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

The Syrian government said elections are set at their usual time since the government holds these elections every four years.

The last parliamentarian polls were held in 2012, just months after the war-torn country adopted a new constitution.

The Syrian opposition boycotted this year’s elections and the one in 2012 due to loss of confidence in the Syrian government.

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

However, the decision to hold the polls was interpreted by government loyalists as proof that Damascus is still an independent decision maker, and that the polls and the Geneva talks, set to resume soon, are separate from each other.

Ahead of the elections, Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said polls for the people’s assembly are a “constitutional right”, and added that they send a message within the country and abroad.

“Election day will be an exceptional one in Syrians’ political life, especially those who want a true opportunity to express their stance following five years of war in Syria,” he sad.

Al-Zoubi said the political process under discussion in Geneva is separate from the constitutional right and that the current constitution is valid until it is replaced by a new one.

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