After so much time and anticipation, the 2021 Syria Presidential Election is finally over. Against all odds the participation was far greater than expected and for the first time Syria is on the path to change. What inspired it the most?
On Friday, thousands flocked to the streets of Damascus to celebrate Bashar al-Asad’s victory for a fourth term. According to Syria state media, more than 80 percent of the population participated in this year’s election and interestingly enough more than 95 percent of them voted in Assad’s favour. Despite a decade-old war, this election proved that Syria is still a functioning country to the dismay of all the naysayers and hostiles, proving to the world that there is still hope for Syria. With a seven year long term at his disposal and more than a two third of the country unified under his command, Assad now finally has the chance to bring about some meaningful changes for his country. Unfortunately even now, those that wish him toppled refuse to accept the reality as it is, therefore resorting to smear tactics to undermine the election integrity and democracy in Syria.
For days the West and its allies have been crying foul of Syria’s election integrity. Countries like the United States, Britain, Germany and France voiced their displeasures ahead of the election and some actively sought to sabotage it. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that the election in Syria is neither “free nor fair” and the rest of their outlets went on to describe the election as a “sham” or a “charade”. Assad’s own opposition, whether those in Idlib or those guided by Turkey or even those working within the government, didn’t go any easier on him, throwing a hurdle at almost every turn. Even so, for the reasons we previously explained in another piece, Syrians this time around did really want Assad at the helm so that they could start rebuilding themselves from scratch. Anyone else and Syria might have been torn apart once again. Henceforth, as you can see all the odds were stacked in Assad’s favour and therefore there was no need for him to hold an election just for the sake of it. Because of that, Assad used all the tools at his disposal to make sure this election would be as authentic as possible, hence people were encouraged to participate in this election like never before.
To a large extent, Assad and the Syrian government were inspired by their close ally and their brother-in-arms, the Islamic Republic of Iran. In a region where the majority of, if not all, Islamic countries were chafing under the autocratic leash of tribal monarchs leading them, the Islamic Republic of Iran effectively became the very first country to uphold the democratic values, putting the choice of the people before the choice of the revolutionaries. Those following Iran’s history do well remember that the first elected president of Iran after the 1979 Revolution, Abulhassan Banisadr, had almost nothing in common with the revolutionaries that toppled the Pahlavi dynasty. Later on, when the war broke out and Banisadr’s treachery became evident to all, the very same people who had elected him to the office Mohammad-Ali Rajai into the office who was the complete opposite of Banisadr in every aspect. While Iran was slowly trying to create a nation-state with a true democracy at its heart, Arab monarchies were busy quelling and silencing popular movements or other claimants that could pose a threat to their rule. Thereby it was no wonder that when a dictator like Saddam Hussein decided to take up arms against Iran, all of them unanimously provided him with the necessary funding and support, preferring to kill the only democratic country in the region to prevent the rise of similar ideas in their own kingdoms. To their utter horror, not only Saddam failed at this endeavor, Iran went on to become a regional power with unparalleled influence over its neighbors that began adapting similar ideas through their numerous interactions.
Eventually, the day of reckoning finally arrived in the early 2010s when the people in Islamic countries took up arms in rebellion against their monarchs. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and many other countries saw many uprisings and this “Arab Spring” caused the red alert for the Arab monarchies went off. Learning from their past mistakes, this time the Arab monarchies instead infiltrated these revolutionaries from within, effectively killing them. Unfortunately many of those rebellions were steered off their righteous path and eventually destroyed. Syria however understood the lay of the line better than the rest of those countries and responded properly to the growing menace that was going to devastate the region. Because of the numerous interactions during the course of war against ISIS and afterwards, Syria was steadily exposed to the Iranians way of thinking and Assad was encouraged to adopt many similar principles to involve the Syrians who felt left out of the game come into it again. During this election things were no different. Prior to it, there were many calls from left and right, even from the Russians, to convince Assad to step down in order to prevent the rise of rebel factions now that the country was near unification. After conversing with the Iranians, Assad was convinced to adjust its policies with regards to his people to prove to the world that the issue in the first place wasn’t the person but the policy. To everyone’s amazement, it did work.
Hundreds of thousands of people from all across the country rushed to vote for Assad, knowing that now he would be their only hope for reconstructing the country from the ground up. Many of these people were not necessarily in for the man himself but for the changes he is now about to bring. Syria Civil War started with the very same ideas about democracy and freedom but like all the others it was manipulated by the Arab monarchies to sow discord and chaos. Thanks to Assad’s timely call for help, not only Iran managed to help turn the tide of war, they also succeeded in implementing the same noble principles that prompted people to rebel in the first place. It wouldn’t be that surprising if in the coming years, the Syrian separatists now largely cleansed of the taint of malevolent outside influence would embrace their brethren once again and use ballots to fight for agendas they deem worthy. For the time being however, Syrians can rest assured knowing that from now on a better, more mature democracy would be guiding their future and that alone is a victory sweeter than a thousand wars.