Syria: Presidential Campaign Starts as Civil War Rages
Campaigning began Sunday for Syria's June 3 presidential election, AFP reports.
In Damascus, campaign posters lauding President Bashar Al-Assad hung on shopping streets and in public gardens, in the run-up to the country's first multi-candidate presidential vote.
The election is being staged despite a raging civil war, with dozens of people dying across the country every day.
Voting will only be held in territory under government control, excluding large areas held by rebels, and refugees who fled through unofficial crossings are barred from voting.
Assad, who is competing for his third seven-year term, came to office in 2000, after the death of his father and predecessor Hafez Al-Assad, who had been in power since 1970.
Assad will face Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri, a 54-year-old lawmaker from Damascus, and 43-year-old Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, a lawmaker from the northern city of Aleppo.
Opposition activists and Western countries have condemned the elections as a sham as voting is expected to be held only in government-controlled territory.
Assad has dismissed the claims, saying, “The Syrian presidency... maintains an equal distance from all candidates in order that Syrians can choose their... president freely and transparently.”
AFP noted that in the capital, a few posters for Nuri's campaign could be seen Sunday, calling for a "battle against corruption" as well as a "free economy" and the "return of the middle class."
Assad's campaign posters, however, dominate the landscape, with dozens showing the Syrian flag overlaid with the word "together" and his signature.
Assad's campaign has also began online, under the slogan "Together," with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts all set up to promote his run, the news agency reported, adding that the Facebook account had garnered 65,000 likes by Sunday morning, and the Twitter account nearly 1,000 followers.