Syria’s election breaches UN rules, says envoy

The election should take place under a new constitution with UN monitors, says Geir Pedersen.

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On Wednesday, UN peace envoy Geir Pedersen criticized Syria’s coming presidential elections, saying a vote that will be prone to ‘legitimize’ Bashar Al Assad does not meet UN Security Council rules.

Pedersen said next month’s election runs in contrary to a 2015 UN Security Council resolution which calls for presidential elections only after the conscripting of a new constitution that allows for a free and competitive vote.

“The election has been called under the auspices of the current constitution and is not part of the political process established by the 2015 resolution”, Pedersen said at virtual council talks.

The vote should be held after the creation of a new constitution and be “administered under UN supervision to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability,” he added.

“The UN is not involved in this election and has no mandate to be,” Pedersen added.

The election, which will be held on May 26, with Syrians abroad voting on May 20, will be the second since the country’s civil war, which started a decade ago. So far, more than two dozen candidates have applied to compete.

According to the regime‘s 2012 constitution, those standing must have lived in Syria for the past 10 years, meaning most opposition candidates are barred from rivaling Assad. It also requires parliament stacked with members of the ruling party to approve candidates.

Assad was unilaterally elected to his seven-year term in 2014 with 88.7 percent of the vote. His runner-up endorsed the campaign.

The UN-backed committee, comprising representatives of Assad’s government, the Syrian opposition and civil society, has met five times since October 2019 to draft a new constitution but has made little progress. Pedersen is working on holding a sixth meeting but said talks must be “different from what has gone before, with some clear goals, credible working methods and a future work plan”.

Few analysts expect the committee to make real progress. Fighting in Syria has largely ceased and forces backing Assad, along with Russian and Iranian support, recaptured most of the country. The Assad government also enjoys the support of veto-wielding council members Russia and China, which have repeatedly prevented efforts of the international community in holding the regime accountable for its crimes.

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