Syria holds elections as violence rages on

DAMASCUS - Syria holds a parliamentary election on Monday which authorities tout as a milestone of political reform after a 14-month popular uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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

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

Unlike autocratic leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen who were toppled by the Arab Spring, Assad has kept enough support among the military and his Alawite sect, which dominates the army and security apparatus, to withstand the revolt.

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