Syria Votes: Ethnic Armenians in war-torn country likely to back President Assad

Tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians are likely to vote overwhelmingly in support of President Bashar al-Assad in polls being held in Syria today – in fact the first elections in half a century contested by more than one candidate.

The electoral process in a war-torn country that has seen a deadly civil strife in the last three years is organized only in areas controlled by government forces. The opposition forces of the country protested against the elections and cancelled them in the regions under their control.

These presidential elections in Syria are considered historical since besides the representative of the Assad family, which has ruled the country for about 50 years, two other candidates have been nominated.

Assad’s opponents are ex-representative of the Communist Party Maher Abdel-Hafiz and ex-MP Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri. Assad has ruled the country since 2000 when his father Hafiz Assad, died after 30-year rule. Assad was re-elected as president in 2007 at a public referendum. 97.62% of the electorate voted for him then.

In Armenia, almost 11,000 nationals of Syria of Armenian decent participated in the polls on May 28 in the precinct set up at the Syrian embassy in Yerevan. Most Armenians do not conceal that they favor Assad. They believe the elections will help end the war and lead the country towards stability.

“Only for Assad. We’ve lived very well during his rule in Syria, being an ethnic Christian minority we had all the freedoms, they looked out for us,” says Shahe Abelian from Kessab, an Armenian-populated area in northwestern Syria that saw an incursion of al-Qaeda-linked militants from Turkey as recently as last March.

Vazgen Iskandarian, an Armenian from Aleppo, also says that they support al-Assad and would not vote for anyone else.

According to the Syrian Ministry of Interior Affairs, there are more than 15 million eligible voters inside and outside the borders of Syria. A total of 9,601 precincts opened at 07:00 local time and will be closed at 19:00. If need be, the election time might be prolonged for five more hours.

Under the 2012 Constitution, the Syrian political system has arguably become more flexible and democratic. Previously the president could be nominated only by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and this nomination was supposed to be approved by a public referendum. Now presidential power is limited to seven years’ period with the president having the right to be re-elected only once.

“Friends of Syria” country foreign ministers have urged the international community not to recognize the June 3 Syrian presidential election and have agreed to increase the support given to the Syrian opposition.

“We, “Friends of Syria” eleven countries reject Bashar Assad’s self-initiated decision to hold illegal presidential elections on June 3. These elections are mockery for the people having suffered hardships as a result of the conflict, it contradicts Geneva Communiqué. According to the rules set by the regime, millions of Syrians will not take part in the elections. We urge the international community to reject those illegal elections, just like the Arab League countries, the United States and the UN, Turkey and the EU already have,” says the communiqué adopted as a result of the “Friends of Syria” meeting in London on May 15.

The U.S. State Department’s Jen Psaki states that the U.S. considers Syrian elections invalid.

On June 1, at the second meeting of heads of parliamentary foreign policy committees of friends of Syria countries in the Iranian capital, Tehran, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani stated that the establishment of democracy in Syria does not take place by use of power. Ali Larijani considers the June 3rd presidential elections another proof of the fact that Syrian government respects its people’s will. Iranian NA speaker condemned the US and its Western and regional allies’ anti-Syrian attitude towards the elections.

According to the UN data, the war resulted in 2.8 million refugees and another four million IDPs (Internally Displaced People). Daily 6,000 Syrians become refugees.

According to the Organization dealing with Human Rights Protection in Syria, the Syrian civil war has claimed more than 160,402 human lives, 53,978 out of which civilians, 8,607 children and 5,586 women, and the rest – military and rebels.

Armenians in Syria mostly reside in Aleppo and Damascus. Before the war there were about 80,000 Armenians in Syria. Currently 11,000 Syrian-Armenians have moved to Armenia and 5,000 are in Lebanon. An estimated 80 ethnic Armenians have been killed in Syria since the internal conflict began in 2011.