Syria’s election is virtually certain to give President Bashar al-Assad a new term in office over the objections of his opponents. Victory at the polls will be seen by Mr. Assad’s supporters as a validation of his rule of the country. The current ballot is the first one to have more than one candidate racing since Mr. Assad’s father rose to power back in 1970.
During the polling hours, buses ferried government workers from their offices to cast ballots and at security checkpoints, some people were blocked from leaving neighborhoods until they had shown inked fingers proving they had taken part in the vote. However, there were no polling places available in the areas still held by the insurgents.
Government opponents have labeled the election a “blood election.” Mr. Assad has forcefully suppressed the three-year insurgency that has turned his country into a divided and ruined landscape and has repeatedly expressed his confidence that he will ultimately win the war.
Mr. Assad’s ability to stage-manage the election was limited, showing how strong the opposition still is. In central Damascus neighborhoods, joy-riding young people waved government flags from cars and polling stations seemed to occupy every school and government building. Posters of the president decorated many streets.
The outlying districts and suburbs could have been another world. In the northern districts of Barzeh and Qaboun, all that could be seen were blocks of bombed-out apartments with no official flags, no cheering crowds and no elections. The sounds of the continued shelling of insurgent-held areas could be heard nearby.
Recent truces in Barzeh and other long blockaded areas have been cited by the government as signs of healing and rebuilding in the country. However, the residents of those areas often do not feel the same. Mazen, 40, a fighter in Qaboun, commented, “Bashar al-Assad is not our president.”