Syria's ruling party grabs most of the seats in elections

Umbrella of 10 parties takes nearly 70% of the vote; opposition boycotts elections as a farce.

syria interior minister  (photo credit: AP)
syria interior minister
(photo credit: AP)
The ruling coalition took an overwhelming majority of seats in Syria's parliamentary elections, which were boycotted by the opposition as a farce, according to results announced Thursday. Interior Minister Bassam Abdel-Majid said the National Progressive Front, an umbrella of 10 political parties led by the Baath Party, won 172 seats or 68.8 percent of the 250-member parliament in the tightly controlled elections on Sunday and Monday. Voter turnout was 56 percent, Abdel-Majid told a news conference Thursday. The figure is certain to be contested by government opponents, who said during polling that they believed the turnout would be between 6 percent and 10 percent. There had never been any doubt about the outcome as the constitution guarantees the Baath Party and its allies a two-thirds majority in the parliament. Opposition parties had called for a boycott, saying the polls were a "farce" and demanding a new election law. The rubber-stamp legislature is likely to consolidate the rule of President Bashar Assad, who is expected to seek its nomination to run for a second seven-year term in July. The government had hoped the elections would soften the authoritarian image of Syria and ease its international isolation. But on Tuesday, the day after polling finished, White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino accused the government of "manipulating" the election. Abdel-Majid said the US criticism was driven by Syria's opposition to the occupation of Iraq and told journalists the elections were held in a "climate of freedom, democracy, transparency and fairness."