(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Damascus had the audacity to hold elections, apparently as part of an effort to woo the international community.
The exercise was part of reforms package that President Bashar Al Assad introduced last year, and even came up with a new constitution that pledges guarantees to the minorities and the dispossessed groups in the affairs of the state.
As the proverb goes, one side is appreciate-able and the other is condemnable, so is the case with the ballot held on Monday. It might be an earnest endeavour on the part of the Baath Party, which finds itself on the edges and too feeble to assert, to open up the society and make room for a pluralistic dispensation. Perhaps that is why seats in the 250-member parliament are assigned for farmers and workers, and a bar has been placed on religious, tribal and denominational affiliations in creating new political parties. But that seems to have ended up with eggs on the face as a very thin turnout was reported and the ballot dubbed as sham in the absence of credible contesters from the civil-strife ridden society.
This is an issue that will keep resurfacing as Assad goes on to further his agenda of so-called reforms. With violence raging across the length and breadth of the country, an election to merely create a new tier of participation and that too under the tutelage of the reining administration was unwarranted. With an ineffective participation from the opposition, the polls have ended up as one more cushion for the Baath Party to engage in muscle flexing.
How can popular discontent be tamed with such elections when the demand is one of change in the pyramid structure upside down? The polls, the first in almost 40 years not to guarantee a clean sweep to the ruling party, could have gathered an iota of credibility if they had been further delayed till peace is restored and the ongoing gunfight comes to an end. The need of the hour is to stall the imbroglio that is exploding into a civil war and also driving hundreds and thousands into diaspora across the borders.
This is the time for UN special envoy Kofi Annan to revisit the understanding that he had stuck with Assad, and without commenting on the parliamentary polls try to encourage his dispensation to do more on reforms, and especially in terms of putting an end to his security forces, trigger-happiness. The rebels on their end too have acted too irresponsibility in bringing the fight to the brink. The phenomenon of blame game and acts in solitary for point scoring hasn't helped further peace.