The year 2007 saw three election events; Parliament elections in April, a referendum on the President in May and local government elections in August, all of which saw the absence of proper democratic measures and standards.
The Ba’th party’s lot in Parliament is 134 out of a total of 250 seats, and with its ally; the marginal National Progressive Front Coalition, it enjoys 172 seats. This leaves to the rest of the Syrian people less than 80 seats or so (independent), most of whom are either the newly rich who share strong ties and relationships with security officers and major figures within the regime.
As a result of the absence of any real democratic competition and with the share of the Ba’th party and its allies guaranteed, Syrians demonstrate a deep and considerable sense of apathy. At a time when the regime carried out a number of measures in order to raise the numbers of voters, including holding elections on working days and punishing government employees who’s ID cards show that they have not voted, numbers have failed to rise above the 10% mark in all three election campaigns. However, this did not deter the Ministry of Interior from declaring the numbers at 97% for the referendum on the President, 35% for the Parliament elections and 49% for the local government elections.
The referendum on the President lacks the bare minimum conditions of democracy, as no one is allowed to nominate themselves, as nominations can only be made by the higher strands of the ruling Ba’th Party which has a complete monopoly over state and society by virtue of Article 8 of the Constitution, designed especially by the former President Hafez al-Asad in 1973, and does not allow for anyone to stand for the position of President.
What was worse was that a number of citizens were arrested after the referendum on the President and disappeared in a variety of prisons and interrogation centres, including Misbah Ala’iddin from the village of Bisnada in Latakia after casting a ‘no’ vote in the referendum.
A number of journalists who covered the referendum were attacked by security officials and were ordered out of the country immediately, including the Iraqi correspondent Saif al-Khayyat from JJ Japanese media agency who was arrested, abused and subjected to sever torture before being ordered out of the country.
SHRC documented many cases in which citizens were coerced and forced, either individually or collectively to vote with a ‘yes’ in the referendum. SHRC also documented a large number of cases in which ID cards (lost or replaced) were issued in order to ensure dubious castings. A number of agents for the independent candidates in both the parliament and local elections stated that they had been ordered to leave the polling hall a full hour before polling closed, which casts doubts over whether papers were replaced. Also the private voting booth was discarded during the referendum, and reports confirm that security officials stood over ballot boxes to ensure the vote was a ‘yes’, and to report the names of those who cast a ‘no’ vote, so that they could be persecuted later.
Syrian authorities refuse to allow any party, public or international, to monitor elections and ensure their fairness and transparency. The authorities also refuse to accept any appeals or protests pertaining to the elections. It is noteworthy that all denominations of the Syrian opposition boycotted the elections due to the total absence of any standard of democratic notion, as well as fairness, transparency and freedom as a result of the Ba’th party’s right to the majority vote by virtue of the constitution.