Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is going to be “re-elected” in the upcoming presidential polls scheduled for Tuesday.
Obviously, Assad will win his third seven-year term at the end of the day – if anyone other than his friends even show up to slip the ballots into the box. It would be lethal to do so.
A few “opponents” will stand as candidates to give the appearance that the elections are actually a process rather than the farce the process really is.
One of those willing to cooperate is Hassan al-Nouri, a U.S.-educated businessman who once served as minister of administrative development. Age 54, he is the first of two people ever to run against the Syrian leader – even in a rigged election. His fellow ‘opponent,’ Maher Hajjar, is a legislator from Aleppo.
The fee for Nouri’s cooperation was massive publicity. His face has been plastered all over the country on billboards from one end of Syria to the other. A savvy businessman, Nouri understands that the price of doing business is keeping your name in the news. He is a wealthy man, but more money is always welcome, and Nouri until now has been known mostly to the Damascus-area market.
Neither are really opponents, of course. Nouri even admitted as much to The Washington Post. “I’m not opposition, a hundred percent. But I’m not part of the regime,” he said. “I’m leading the third party.” Western leaders and analysts have dismissed this and the entire election as a charade.
But more to the point, Nouri expressed a view repeatedly stated by the Assad government, more succinctly and in terms a democratic audience can more easily understand: “Millions of Syrians are the silent majority. They don’t give a damn who is the president. They want food on the table, they want peace, they want security.”
The question is, what happens the day after tomorrow?