Syrian embassy in Lebanon expects high turnout for presidential election

Ambassador hopes that at least 200,000 people will turn up to vote

A man walks past a poster of President Bashar al-Assad, a candidate for the Presidential election, in the Syrian capital Damascus on May 17, 2021. A Syrian former minister and a member of the Damascus-tolerated opposition will face Bashar al-Assad in this month's presidential election, the constitutional court said. The Assad-appointed body approved only three out of 51 applications to stand in the May 26 ballot, among them the 55-year-old president himself, widely expected to win a fourth mandate. / AFP / LOUAI BESHARA

A large number of Syrians are expected to vote in the coming presidential elections, the country's ambassador to Lebanon said on Tuesday.

“I cannot give you an exact figure but previous numbers were very high. Last time, more than 200,000 registered. There could be more,” said Syrian ambassador Ali Abdul-Karim Ali during a press conference in Yarze, outside Beirut.

Scuffles erupted during the last presidential elections in May 2014 between Syrians eager to vote and the Lebanese Army, and polling hours were extended until midnight.

Crowds of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's supporters stood outside the Syrian embassy chanting slogans such as, “With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Bashar."

In an apparent reference to the chaos seen during the previous election, Mr Ali said: “We will avoid those mistakes with the [co-operation of] the concerned Lebanese parties."

Mr Ali expressed his hope that polling station hours would be extended again this year.

Voting at the embassy in Lebanon will take place on May 20 while polling stations will open on May 26 in Syria.

This is the second presidential election that has been held since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011 as a peaceful uprising against Mr Al Assad before it devolved into a bloody conflict.

There are more than 800,000 Syrians registered as refugees in Lebanon, but local officials believe the true number could exceed one million.

Mr Ali repeatedly said that all refugees are welcome to return to Syria, echoing Mr Al Assad’s calls for return in a bid to fund the country’s reconstruction. But the number of returnees remains low.

Mr Al Assad, who has been in power since 2000, is almost certain to be re-elected.

In 2014, he won with 88.7 per cent of the vote. This year, he is running against two obscure candidates, Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei.

Western countries and the UN have slammed the elections as a farce. The UN stated last April that it is not involved in the elections and has “no mandate to be".

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