Syria’s dirty secret is that Assad could win in a fair election

Faisal Al Yafai writes: There is a presidential election in Syria and Bashar Al Assad is going to win. The only question is by how much.

As a presidential candidate, Mr Al Assad has done quite well. He has overseen a truce that has seen one of the country’s largest cities return to government control. He has maintained his relationships with his allies in Iran and Hizbollah. He still cuts a man of the people stance, in marked contrast to the extremists who seek to run the country.

He is, above all, a known quantity, a man who has led the country through difficult times, promises stability and is backed by an army that can deliver it. All in all, Mr Al Assad looks like a credible candidate.

Though only, of course, if you overlook the fact that he caused the civil war that rages today.

But there is a serious reason to understand why Mr Al Assad is seen by many within and without Syria as a credible candidate. Because many will vote for him.

Certainly, that is because there is no real alternative, because the only places in which voting will take place are under government control, because 40 years of propaganda have removed any alternative – and because the Assad regime has spent three years demonstrating what it means by the slogan “Assad or we burn the country”.

But the dirty secret in Syria today is that, if the presidential election were free and fair, Bashar Al Assad would still win. [Continue reading…]

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