Syria Syria Holds Parliamentary Polls as Geneva Talks Reopen

208212Image1Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad voted together with his wife in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections, being held in government-controlled areas of the war-torn country.

“Voters all around the country headed to polling stations in all provinces since early this morning to select 250 members out of over 3,500 candidates,” according to Syria’s official Sana news agency.

The president, who voted at the Assad Library in Damascus, made no comments as he dropped his ballot.

The polls are taking place against the backdrop of an upsurge in fighting and amid a fragile partial truce among the warring parties in the five-year Syrian conflict.

Western leaders and Syrian opposition groups have criticized the elections as a sham and a threat to the peace talks and a tenuous six-week-old cease-fire.

Polling stations opened early Wednesday morning in the government-controlled areas, which make up about a third of the country’s territory.

The polls coincide with the resumption of UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva to end the Syrian conflict.

The polls and the talks are seen as signs of Assad’s growing confidence: he had held on as president despite opposition by the United States and its allies, and through huge backing by Russia and Iran.

The outcome of the polls – held every four years — is a foregone conclusion, with Assad supporters once again dominating the largely ceremonial parliament.