Syrian President Bashar Assad Announces Presidential Campaign
Syrian President Bashar Assad announced his official entrance into the presidential race on Monday, running for a third seven-year term in the June 3 elections.
Parliament speaker Mohammad al-Laham announced the news Monday, according to Reuters.
"I ... Dr Bashar Hafez al Assad ... wish to nominate myself for the post of president of the republic, hoping that parliament will endorse it," he stated, on Assad's behalf.
Six other candidates have now announced their intentions to run against Assad, including the first female presidential candidate. Analysts remain pessimistic over the outcome, however, and maintain that the competition is merely a veneer for legitimacy.
The European Union (EU) other Western powers continue to criticize Assad's regime government for the elections, calling them a "parody of democracy" in light of the three-year civil war raging between Damascus and opposition forces.
Assad announced the elections just days after stating that he believed his forces were gaining ground in the war, which so far has killed at least 150,000 people and displaced over one million Syrians.
But, despite the criticism, Assad has consistently insisted that the elections are democratic.
"The Syrian presidency... maintains an equal distance from all candidates in order that Syrians can choose their... president freely and transparently," Assad maintained, in a statement translated by AFP Sunday.
Syria's Foreign Ministry also responded sharply to the criticism last Wednesday, claiming the decision to hold the election was a "purely sovereign" one and that foreign interference would not be tolerated.
"If these countries, foremost among them the Western nations, are calling for democracy and freedom, then they should listen to the views of Syrians and who they choose through the ballot box," state television quoted the ministry as stating.