DAMASCUS: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has registered to stand in next month’s presidential election, which he is widely expected to win, parliament speaker Mohammed al-Lahham said on Monday.
“I, citizen Bashar Hafez al-Assad, wish to present my candidacy for the post of president of the republic,” said a letter read in parliament by Lahham.
The June 3 vote will be held despite a raging war that began after a massive government crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests that flared in March 2011.
The conflict is estimated to have killed more than 150,000 people, and large swathes of Syrian territory are now beyond the control of the government.
Assad, whose term expires on July 17, is expected to sail to victory against his competitors.
So far, six other hopefuls have announced their candidacy, most of them largely unknown.
A posting on the presidency’s official Facebook page quoted Assad as calling on supporters of different candidates to express themselves through the ballot box.
“Those who wish to express their joy and support for any candidate for the presidency should do so in a responsible, patriotic way, first, and secondly, through the ballot box in a timely fashion,” he said.
“I call on all Syrian citizens to refrain from firing in the air in joy, whatever the occasion might be, especially as Syria will be having its first election in modern history,” he added.
Assad became president after his father Hafez died in 2000 and will be competing in the first multi-candidate elections for the post, after a constitutional amendment did away with a referendum system.
Electoral rules prevent those who have lived outside Syria for the past decade from competing, effectively ruling out participation by the opposition-in-exile.
The Syrian opposition and much of the international community has condemned the government’s plan to hold the vote, with Washington saying it would be a “parody” of democracy.