Turnout Heavy for Syrian Parliamentary Elections Despite Call for Boycott
(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- There was evidence Monday that a call by opposition forces to boycott Syria's parliamentary elections was having little effect as voter turnout appeared somewhat lighter in some parts of the country even as the state TV said polling places were swarmed by voters.
President Bashar al-Assad promised the election would help usher in new reforms even as his critics said it was all a sham, given the government's relentless crackdown on political foes that has resulted in between 9,000 and 11,000 deaths during the past 14 months.
Unlike previous elections, multiple parties were on the ballot instead of only members of the ruling Baathist regime.
However, al-Assad also instituted restrictions about which candidates could actually run for parliament, again bolstering his foes' contention that nothing much was changing in Syria where al-Assad and his father have ruled for decades.
In fact, a new constitution approved last February gives al-Assad even greater powers over the Legislature than ever before and enables him to run for two consecutive seven-year terms, virtually giving the president control of Syria until 2026 unless he steps down or is overthrown.
Meanwhile, the ceasefire pact Syria agreed to has only proven to be minimally successful with the death count growing daily and United Nations observers slow to arrive in the country. So far, only 40 of the 300 monitors promised have been deployed.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio