Syria holds elections as violence rages on

DAMASCUS - Syria holds a parliamentaryelection on Monday which authorities tout as a milestone ofpolitical reform after a 14-month popular uprising againstSyrian President Bashar Assad.

Violence rocked the east of the country ahead of the vote,underlining the challenge of holding a credible poll whilebloodshed continues and complicating the task of UN observersmonitoring a ceasefire declared on April 12.

Opposition activists reported fighting between the army andrebels in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor and attacks byAssad's forces that killed five people in other parts of thecountry on Sunday, including one young man shot dead inhouse-to-house raids in the capital Damascus.

Unlike autocratic leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemenwho were toppled by the Arab Spring, Assad has kept enoughsupport among the military and his Alawite sect, which dominatesthe army and security apparatus, to withstand the revolt.