1st woman applies to run for Syria’s presidential elections

FILE – In this April 13, 2016 file photo, a Syrian election official waits for voters at a polling station with posters of President Bashar Assad during the parliamentary election in Damascus, Syria. On Sunday, April 18, 2021, Syria’s parliament speaker announced that presidential elections in the war-ravaged country will be held May 26. The election is widely expected to give Assad a fourth seven-year term. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — A woman from the capital Damascus has applied to run for Syria’s presidential elections, the parliament speaker said Tuesday, becoming the first female to make a bid for the country’s top job in a largely symbolic vote certain to be won by President Bashar Assad.

The presidential election, the second since the country’s civil war broke out 10 years ago, is to be held May 26. Syrians abroad will vote on May 20.

Speaker Hammoud Sabbagh said Faten Ali Nahar, a 50-year-old resident of Damascus, has nominated herself for the post. Little is known about Nahar. The parliament speaker provided her age, place birth and her mother’s name in the announcement. There were no reports on who she is on social media.

Two other candidates have submitted their names, including a businessman who applied to run against Assad in 2014. Then Assad won nearly 90% of the votes.

While Assad has not yet applied, he is widely expected to run for a fourth seven-year term. He has held power since 2000, when he took over after the death of his father who ran the country for 30 years.

Syria only allowed multi-candidate votes in the last elections in 2014, where competition with Assad was symbolic and seen by opposition and Western countries as a sham aimed to give the incumbent president a veneer of legitimacy.

The international community is unlikely to recognize the legitimacy of the upcoming elections. According to the UN resolution for a political resolution of the conflict in Syria, a new constitution is supposed to be drafted, approved in a public referendum before a U.N.-monitored presidential elections are to take place. But little progress has been made on the drafting committee while Assad continues to have the backing of Russia and Iran.

Last month, the Biden administration said it will not recognize the result of its presidential election unless the voting is free, fair, supervised by the United Nations and represents all of Syrian society.

Syria has been in the throes of civil war since 2011, when Arab Spring-inspired protests against the Assad family rule turned into an armed insurgence in response to a brutal military crackdown.

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