Assad slates parliamentary elections for April 22

President Bashar Assad on Wednesday set Apr. 22 as the date for the next Syrian parliamentary elections, according to a presidential decree carried by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. The elections, held every for years, were due in 2007 but their date was uncertain. "President Assad has specified in a decree that Sunday, April 22, will be the date to elect members of the People's Assembly," SANA said. Syrians will cast ballots to elect representatives to the 250-seat legislature which in the past has been dominated by Assad's ruling Baath Party. The latest elections, held March 2003, were boycotted by five opposition groups who claimed the vote was undemocratic. In that vote, the National Progressive Front won overwhelmingly but the victory secured it just two-thirds of the legislature, or 167 seats. The two-thirds limit is dictated by the Syrian constitution for the largest group in parliament. The Front is a coalition of the ruling Baath party and its six smaller allies. The remaining 83 seats went to independents. Syria, with a population of 18 million people, has more than seven million eligible voters.