Hugh Macleod, Annasofie Flamand, and an anonymous GlobalPost journalist in Damascus report on the constitutional referendum held in Syria yesterday.
At one polling station in a state-run clinic in Damascus’ Midan district, a neighborhood of traditional Sunni Damascene families and a center for protests in the capital, the transparent ballot box was still almost empty by late afternoon.
At others, the box was at least opaque and, for the first time in Syria, private voting booths were available, though many of those who did vote did so openly at the desk.
Of the roughly 40 ballots cast in Midan’s polling center, said one of the government employees running it, most had come from employees of the health facility itself.
“All public workers must vote, otherwise they could be penalized by the secret service,” said Muhammad Faour of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, describing the result of the referendum as a “foregone conclusion.”
Two buses filled with Kalashnikov-wielding security men stood watch over Midan’s Al Hassan Mosque, a focus for anti-regime protests. No one in Midan could tell a reporter where the poll was being held.
In Homs and Hama, two of Syria’s largest cities, in the far east of Deir Ezzour, in the northwest province of Idleb and in the far south of Daraa, no election took place. Residents cowered, hungry and cold, as mortars and rockets pounded their homes.
Avaaz, the rights group, reported some 2,000 Syrians attempted to flee Homs’ suburbs as the bombardment, now in its fourth week, escalated. Around 100 people were killed over the weekend by Assad’s forces.
Despite the onslaught, residents of Idlib found time to film a satirical video showing a donkey with a voting paper stuffed in its back, being led to a makeshift ballot box. “This is Syrian democracy,” announced one of the video’s creators.
Syria’s state-run media SANA showed a bustling polling center where Assad cast his vote. He was accompanied by his wife Asma, quashing rumors that the woman Vogue once branded “the desert rose” for her progressive stances, had fled Damascus for a family home in London, appalled at the killing of thousands of Syrians by her husband’s regime since March.
Alastair Crooke, former EU mediator on the Middle East, was quoted as applauding a vote which “shows clearly that the majority of the Syrians want to reach reform under the current leadership.”