First woman applies to run for president of Syria

President Bashar Al Assad has not yet applied but he is expected to win his fourth seven-year term

Elections are scheduled to take place on May 26. Reuters
Elections are scheduled to take place on May 26. Reuters

A woman from the Syrian capital Damascus has become the first to run for the country's presidency, the parliament speaker said on Tuesday.

But the largely symbolic election is certain to be won by President Bashar Al Assad.

The second presidential election 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 Nahar, 50, has nominated herself for the post.

Mr Sabbagh provided her age, place of birth and her mother’s name in the announcement, although little else is known about her.

Two other candidates have submitted their names, including a businessman who ran against Mr Al Assad in 2014, when the President reportedly won nearly 90 per cent of the vote.

Although Mr Al Assad has not yet applied, he is expected to win his fourth seven-year term.

He has held power since 2000, when he took over after the death of his father Hafez, who ran the country for 30 years.

Syria began allowing multi-candidate voting in the 2014 elections.

Competition with Mr Al Assad was symbolic and seen by opposition and western countries as a sham aimed at giving the incumbent a veneer of legitimacy.

But the international community is unlikely to recognise the legitimacy of the elections.

Under the UN resolution for a political end to the conflict in Syria, a new constitution is supposed to be drafted and approved in a public referendum before UN-monitored elections take place.

But little progress has been made on the drafting committee and Mr Al Assad continues to have the backing of Russia and Iran.

Last month, the Biden administration said it would not recognise the result of Syria’s presidential election unless the voting was free, fair, supervised by the UN and represented all of Syrian society.

Syria has been in civil war since 2011, when protests against the Assad family rule turned into an armed insurgency in response to a brutal military crackdown.

Meanwhile, Mr Al Assad appointed a new governor to the Central Bank on Tuesday days after sacking his predecessor amid a currency crisis.

Mohammad Hazimeh was named as the new governor, replacing Hazem Qarfoul, who has been in the post since 2018.

Mr Hazimeh was Mr Qarfoul’s deputy and is a graduate of economic law from a French university.

The Syrian pound set a record low in March, trading on the black market at 4,600 pounds to the dollar.

At the start of the conflict, the US dollar was worth 47 Syrian pounds. Last week, the central bank set the official rate at 2,512 pounds, down from 1,256 since June.

Years of corruption and mismanagement, followed by a decade of war and increasing western sanctions against Mr Al Assad’s government have deepened hardship for Syrians.

The UN estimates that 80 per cent of Syrians live in poverty.

Updated: April 21, 2021 12:09 AM

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