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Syria aims for 'free, transparent' presidential vote

April 27, 2014 9:27 A.M. (Updated: April 27, 2014 9:27 A.M.)
DAMASCUS (AFP) -- Syria said Saturday it aimed for a "free and transparent" presidential election, responding to opposition and Western criticism that the June 3 poll will be a parody of democracy.

So far, a businessman who studied in the United States and an independent MP and former communist are the only two hopefuls to register their candidacy.

President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has controlled the country for four decades, has yet to announce his own candidacy.

However, he told AFP in January there were strong chances he would stand, and there is no doubt that he will win if he does.

"The Syrian presidency ... maintains an equal distance from all candidates in order that Syrians can choose their ... president freely and transparently," a statement said.

And it saluted the "democratic atmosphere" in which the two existing candidates had stepped forward.

Would-be candidates must win the support of at least 35 of Syria's 250 MPs to do so.

Of those, a full 160 are members of the Baath party, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist for nearly 50 years.

Under a new constitution adopted in 2012, the year after the country's civil war erupted, those who have not lived in Syria continuously for the past 10 years are barred from standing.

That effectively excludes most of the opposition.

Previously, under the current president and his late father, only one candidate was presented, and his name submitted to a referendum.
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