Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Syria opposition powerless as Assad holds election

30 May 2014, 15:06

Beirut - Syria's divided rebels and their foreign backers have been watching in disbelief as the government gears up for an election to give Bashar Assad another presidential mandate despite their uprising.

The vote, which the government can hold only in territory it controls and embassies abroad, signals confidence by Assad and his allies that they will win the war.

"Two years ago, we used to think it was impossible the regime would last long enough to hold the 2014 election. I just can't believe it's going to happen," sighed Thaer, an activist from Homs city, once known as "the capital of the revolution".

"When the revolution began, we were much stronger, the movement was peaceful and massive, and our hopes were high," he told AFP via the Internet.

Now, he says, the election is a new signal that Syria's revolt has escalated into a proxy war, "in which the Syrian people are paying the highest price."

A rebel commander in Damascus province agreed.

He said the reason the government is able to hold its vote is because of the opposition's endemic division, a lack of leadership, and a failure by the international community to make good its promises to the revolt.

'Factionalism burdens the revolution'

"The international community is not merely paralysed... The truth is it doesn't actually want to help," said Selim Hejazi, echoing the opposition's belief that while Assad has all the help he needs, the so-called Friends of Syria who back the revolt have been more self-interested.

Hejazi also cited "the continuous disorganisation and factionalism among the ranks of the armed opposition [as] burdens to the revolution."

While Assad's regular army has received huge amounts of military, financial and economic assistance from Russia and Iran, support for the rebels from their backers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the West has been at best chaotic.

Even though the opposition has seized significant swathes of territory across the country, the government still massively outguns the rebels with its regular army, air force, growing paramilitary force and elite fighters from Lebanon's Shi’ite Hezbollah.

Syria's revolt broke out in March 2011 as an Arab Spring-inspired, non-violent movement demanding political change.

It later morphed into a nationwide Islamist insurgency that in time has grown increasingly radical and violent, after Assad's government unleashed a massive crackdown against dissent.

The West, especially the United States, has so far held back from providing much military assistance, citing fears that weapons would land in the hands of jihadists.

'No political solution'

According to Samir Nashar, a veteran anti-Assad dissident and member of the main opposition National Coalition, the West's fears have kept the opposition weak.

"The West, especially the United States, seem to focus on managing the Syrian conflict - not on effectively supporting the opposition," Nashar told AFP by phone from Turkey.

Syria expert Noah Bonsey, who works with the International Crisis Group, agreed.

"Western allies have offered words that raise rebel expectations, but the limited material support they provide is insufficient to effectively empower the moderate elements they ostensibly back," Bonsey said.

Meanwhile, support for the government from its allies has come in the form of financing, weaponry and political clout.

On the ground, the government has scored a string of advances in recent months, steadily raising the heat as election day edges closer.

In the past few weeks, it has reclaimed the Old City of Homs and broken the rebel siege of Aleppo central prison.

Opponents see the advances as part of Assad's electoral campaign, and a stark indicator that "there is absolutely no political solution in sight. The government is saying loud and clear it wants to win militarily".

Opposition and government representatives met earlier this year in Switzerland for talks sponsored by the United States and Russia.

The opposition insisted Assad be excluded from any future power-sharing formula, while the government refused to accept any pre-conditions. The talks ended in stalemate.

With more than 160 000 killed and nearly half the population displaced, the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe that has struck Syria also "makes people feel the whole world is conspiring against them," said Nashar.

Thaer, the activist from Homs, said that even though he considers the election a "farce... it sadly means the war will continue, and the bloodshed will continue".



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...