Syria may have voted on a new constitution, but the West isn’t buying it, The Associated Press reported.
According to the report, the U.S. and its allies dismissed the Syrian regime's referendum on a new constitution Sunday as a “farce” meant to justify the bloody crackdown on dissent.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the poll “a cynical ploy” and urged Syrians who still support President Bashar Assad to turn against him, while German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described the vote as a “farce” and a “sham vote”, AP reported.
“It’s a phony referendum and it is going to be used by Assad to justify what he’s doing to other Syrian citizens,” Clinton was quoted as having said in an interview with CBS News.
Addressing Assad’s supporters, Clinton added, “The longer you support the regime’s campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honor. If you refuse, however, to prop up the regime or take part in attacks ... your countrymen and women will hail you as heroes.”
The new constitution allows for the formation of competing political parties and limits the president to two seven-year terms. Syria has been ruled by the Baath party since it seized power in a coup in 1963 and the Assad family has ruled since Bashar's father Hafez took over in another coup in 1970.
The opposition called the referendum an empty gesture and boycotted voting. As the referendum was going on, Assad’s military continued the crackdown that has been focused for the past three weeks on the opposition stronghold city of Homs.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AP that 36 civilians and 23 security personnel were killed Sunday, mostly in Homs. Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, said 55 people were killed nationwide, including 23 in the Homs province. The crackdown has been aimed at the Baba Amr district in Homs, where many opposition forces have been centralized
Two Western journalists were killed there last week -- including veteran American correspondent Marie Colvin -- and two others were seriously wounded when the house in which they were staying came under particularly heavy mortar and rocket fire by government troops. The two wounded reporters, and the bodies of their two dead colleagues have been trapped there for days, with the Syrian government, and reportedly at times also the Syrian Free Army, refusing to allow International Red Cross (ICRC) workers to come and get them out.
The humanitarian situation in that section of Homs is reportedly so bad, and so dangerous, that one activist told a reporter that whoever does not end up dying of the bombardments will probably ultimately die of starvation due to the siege.
Assad, who was seen casting his vote at the state broadcasting headquarters, showed no signs of giving in on international demands to end his crackdown. Instead, the Syrian President claimed his country was under a “media attack.”
“They may be stronger on the airwaves but we are stronger on the ground, and we aspire to win both on the ground and on the airwaves,” AP quoted Assad as having said in footage broadcast on state TV.