May’s presidential election in Syria was won resoundingly by the incumbent president, Bashar al-Assad, who secured 95.1 percent of the vote on a turnout of 78.6 percent. The polling went ahead at over 12,100 polling centres across the country, whilst Syrian refugees and expats cast an early ballot in the embassies of their host countries. A total of 18 million Syrians at home and abroad were registered to vote in the election.
Syria’s foreign ministry thanked the expats and refugees for their massive participation in the presidential election. Many of these are hampered from returning home by obstacles placed by the West on the path to reconstruction, and it is welcome that they have seized the opportunity to help choose the ruler for the next seven years.
The last presidential election took place in 2014, when Syria’s very survival was at stake, beleaguered by imperialist-backed jihadis unleashed on the country in a bid to unseat the legitimate president and government. Now, in 2021, with the jihadis driven into a corner in Idlib and US imperialism in retreat, the Syrian people have flocked to the booths to give their verdict.
Syria invited electoral monitors from Russia, China, Iran and Belarus to observe the polling, and many progressive countries were eager to congratulate the Syrian people for exercising their democratic right to choose their own leaders.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to Assad over his victory at the polls, stating that he attaches great importance to the development of China-Syria relations, and stands ready to work with Assad to take the 65th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties this year as an opportunity to strive for greater achievements in China-Syria relations. Xi said China firmly supports Syria in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and will provide as much assistance as its capacity allows for Syria in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, revitalising its economy and improving the people’s well-being, so as to continuously lift China-Syria cooperation to new levels (Wang Qi, ‘Assad’s re-election proves “US failure” in Mideast intervention’, Global Times, 1 June 2021).
Russia’s foreign ministry responded in similar vein, saying that Russia sees the election “as the sovereign affair of the Syrian Arab Republic and an important step on the path towards strengthening domestic stability. We believe that ensuring the normal operation of all state institutions based on Syria’s laws is in the interest of all of the Syrian people, particularly amid the ongoing fight against the terrorists.” The foreign ministry added that “Russia, for its part, is determined to continue pursuing a firm policy aimed at supporting Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, as well as provide the country with comprehensive assistance in restoring socio-economic infrastructure and eliminating other negative consequences of the prolonged conflict. We will continue our efforts to promote the political process led by the Syrian people based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254” (‘Russia sees Syrian election as important step towards enhancing stability’, TASS, 28 May 2021)
It will come as no surprise to our readers that the US, which never tires of pointing the finger at Russia for supposedly interfering with other countries’ elections, has no hesitation in trying to undermine, slander and delegitimise any country’s electoral process that fails to deliver the result desired by imperialism. All the ministers of the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy released a joint statement before the Syrian vote, informing the world that the vote would be ‘illegitimate’ and ‘neither free nor fair’. President Assad will not have lost too much sleep over this bad case of sour grapes, simply registering that “the value of these opinions is zero.”
Since taking office as US President, Joseph Biden has decided to reduce funding for America’s proxy Kurd army in the oil-rich north east of Syria and has not yet sent any special envoy to Syria, suggesting a decline of US influence in the region. However it is also reported that Biden has extended unilateral sanctions against Syria by another year. The destructive effect of these sanctions is cruel and widespread, aimed at undermining efforts to revive the economy, get on with reconstruction and facilitate the return of Syrians to their homes.
As has been the case with all the wars US imperialism has initiated in the Middle East, when it turns out that the US cannot win, it consoles itself by withdrawing to the sidelines and spitting in the soup. But it is the Syrian people who flocked to the booths to re-elect Assad and then took to the streets to celebrate his victory who will be writing the future of Syria, not a handful of imperialist countries the value of whose opinions will indeed prove to be zero