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Syrian regime holds local elections, first since uprising began Open in fullscreen

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Syrian regime holds local elections, first since uprising began

Syrians last voted in 2016 in parliamentary elections [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 September, 2018

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Voting centres have opened in regime-controlled areas for the first local elections since 2011, when Syrians' demands for democratic reforms where put down by brutal military force.
Voting began across regime-controlled parts of Syria on Sunday for the war-ravaged country's first local elections since 2011.

"Voting centres opened for citizens to cast their ballots to elect their representatives in the local administrative councils," state news agency SANA reported. 

"More than 40,000 candidates are competing for 18,478 seats across all provinces," it said.

Syrian state television broadcast footage of voters around Damascus and in the coastal regime bastions of Tartus and Latakia dropping their ballots into plastic boxes as election officials looked on.

The number of seats had slightly increased from the roughly 17,000 open in the last elections, as smaller villages had been promoted to fully fledged municipalities.

The councils operate at the municipal level, and newly elected representatives are expected to have more responsibilities than their predecessors, especially those linked to reconstruction and urban development. 

Syria last held local elections in December 2011, just nine months into the conflict. A presidential vote in 2014 renewed Bashar al-Assad's rule for another seven years, but that election was largely theatrical.

Parliamentary elections in 2016 saw Assad's ruling Baath party and its allies win a majority of seats in a vote also dismissed internationally as a sham.

Forces loyal to Assad now control around two-thirds of the country after waging ruthless offensives on opposition-held areas, including around Damascus and in the country's south.

In the last rebel-held stronghold of Idlib, Syrians are bracing themselves for what is expected to be the bloodiest battle of the conflict as regime forces seek to recapture the region.

Despite fears of mass bloodshed and a humanitarian catastrophe, residents have taken to the streets in their thousands this week chanting the same slogans from the protests that broke out during the Arab Spring seven years ago.

The Syrian war began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad family, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent assessments, brutal tactics pursued mainly by the Russian-backed regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians, amount to war crimes.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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