Assad interrupts speech due to drop in blood pressure

Syrian President interrupts speech he was giving to parliament after suffering a brief drop in blood pressure.

Elad Benari ,

Bashar Al-Assad
Bashar Al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Wednesday interrupted a speech he was giving to parliament, telling a room full of lawmakers that he needed to "sit down for a minute" after suffering a brief drop in blood pressure, The Associated Press reported.

Assad, 54, was half an hour through his speech when he began appearing tired and halted his speech twice to take a sip of water from a glass in front of him, according to the report.

He was speaking about US sanctions on Syria and the economic crisis in the war-ravaged country when he told his audience, "My blood pressure has dropped and I need to drink water."

Shortly afterwards, he said, "I need to sit for a minute if you don't mind," before exiting the room.

It was not clear how long he was away but when he returned, Assad, a trained eye doctor, joked that "doctors are the worst patients." He was greeted by applause from the lawmakers before him.

"I haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon. I have no sugar or salt and this happens," he added.

Assad spoke from a podium to the members of parliament wearing masks and social distancing, seated at least 2 meters (6 feet) apart in a huge hall.

Syria has seen a rising number of coronavirus infections recently, although the overall reported numbers remain low with 1,327 confirmed cases and 53 deaths.

Assad’s office said the speech was halted for "several minutes" because of a "mild" case of low blood pressure the president suffered, after which he continued the speech as normal.

The presidency's Facebook page posted that the speech would be aired later Wednesday. It did not provide further details.

Assad gave the speech on the occasion of the first parliament session after elections were held last month.

In that election, Assad’s ruling Baath party and its allies won a majority, taking 177 seats out of 250.

The vote was originally scheduled to take place in April but was twice postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, during the last polls in 2016, Assad’s ruling Baath party and its allies won a majority of the chamber's 250 seats.

The Baath party has governed Syria with an iron fist for the past half-century. In 2012, however, Damascus for the first time allowed candidates from outside the party to run in legislative elections.

A presidential election was held in 2014 and won by Assad, though there were two other candidates who ran against him.