Bombings rock Syria ahead of ‘sham’ poll

By: Anne Barker

A spate of bombings in Syria’s capital Damascus and the northern city Aleppo have marred preparations for parliamentary elections that several opposition groups have already dismissed as a sham.

The overnight bombing in Damascus killed three people on the eve of the parliamentary poll that the government says is crucial for rebuilding Syria – but which opposition forces have dismissed as a farce.

And a separate explosion hit a car wash in Aleppo as a bus was passing by, killing at least five people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the vote comes amid unrest since March 2011 that has claimed more than 11,000 lives.

Anti-government groups have blamed pro-regime forces for the attacks, and called for an international investigation, but state-run media has blamed “terrorists” linked to the opposition and accused them of trying to ferment instability in the lead up to the vote.

Fourteen million Syrians are eligible to vote in the election.

The authorities are touting Monday’s parliamentary election as a showcase of these reforms.

However, the opposition says it will change little in a rubberstamp assembly that has been chosen by the ruling Assad family who have been backed by the powerful secret police for the past four decades.

The assembly currently does not have a single opposition member and state media says half the seats would be reserved for “representatives of workers and peasants”, whose unions are controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Party.

“Nothing has changed. Syria’s political system remains utterly corrupt, and election results will be again determined in advance,” said opposition activist Bassam Ishaq, who unsuccessfully ran for parliament in 2003 and 2007.

Anti-Assad demonstrations have expanded in Aleppo after his forces killed seven student protesters at its university last month. Witnesses say street demonstrations demanding his removal have been expanding across the country since the monitors’ arrival.

Unlike the autocratic leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen – who have been toppled by Arab Spring revolts – Mr Assad has retained enough support among the military and security apparatus to withstand the popular revolt.

Fifty out of a planned total of 300 UN observers are now in Syria to monitor the ceasefire declared on April 12, but their presence has not halted 14 months of violence.

Source: ABC News

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