Skip to main content

Amid violence, Syria to hold elections

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:42 PM EDT, Sun May 6, 2012
  • NEW: Parlimentary elections are scheueld to get under way Monday
  • NEW: More than 7,000 candidates will compete, state news reports
  • NEW: Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits a refugee camp along the Turkey-Syria border
  • At least four people die in violence Sunday in Syria

(CNN) -- Syrians are expected to go to the polls Monday to vote in parliamentary elections that are being held amid ongoing violence and increasing international pressure on the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad.

More than 7,000 candidates will vie for a place in the 250-seat parliament, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported. Voting is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. (12 a.m. ET), it said.

The election comes after the nation adopted a new constitution that allows political parties to compete with the ruling Baath Party. That referendum, hailed by government supporters as a step toward reform, was widely ridiculed by analysts and protesters as window dressing.

Syria's anti-government protests started peacefully in March of last year, but a crackdown spawned violence that has left thousands dead and prompted some military defectors to take up arms against government forces. The government has consistently blamed the violence on "armed terrorists."

Woes mount in Syria as UN mission grows

At least four people died Sunday, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

Also Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited a refugee camp along the Turkey-Syria border where he promised to support people fleeing the violence there and said that the Syrian president is "losing blood."

"Oppressors who massacre innocent people, children and women have always, sooner or later, served their sentences in history," Erdogan said.

"Bashar is losing blood with every passing day," he added, referring to his former ally.

The prime minister vowed to host the more than 23,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkish camps until they voluntarily choose to go back to their country.

At least 20 die in Syria blasts

On Saturday, an explosion near Syria's largest city of Aleppo killed at least five people, opposition activists said. The blast occurred as security forces drove by in a bus, but it was unclear whether the fatalities were soldiers or civilians, according to the Britain-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It also reported separate blasts in the capital of Damascus.

Opposition activists said they asked United Nations observers to visit a university after Syrian forces stormed dormitories during anti-government protests last week, killing seven people and forcing its closure.

Head of U.N. mission arrives in Syria
U.N. response in Syria mocked

Dozens of unarmed military observers are in Syria with a total of 300 expected by the end of the month to monitor a cease-fire and the peace plan.

Aleppo, a bastion of support for President al-Assad, has been largely spared in Syria's 14 months of bloody uprising. Recent protests there could signal a significant shift.

"The regime is very worried," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert who is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Their actions in the last few days demonstrate that."

CNN cannot independently verify reports of violence and deaths within Syria because the government has restricted access by most of the international media.

Also on Sunday, a group calling itself the al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility in postings to jihadist websites for a suicide bombing on government forces said to be involved in a massacre of protesters in al-Latamneh.

The group said the April 20 car-bomb attack targeted a headquarters of 350 soldiers, but did not include further details about the attack. The group has claimed responsibility for other attacks, including a March 27 bombing that killed at least 27 people at a military intelligence office, according to the jihadist monitoring service SITE.

Syrian opposition groups have previously expressed doubts about the group, saying they believe the al-Assad regime may be behind the claims.

Attacks and clashes violate a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, escalating doubts on whether the uprising can be resolved.

A cease-fire went into effect April 12 as part of a six-point peace plan negotiated by Annan.

The plan includes the government allowing humanitarian groups access to the population, releasing detainees, starting a political dialogue and withdrawing troops from city centers.

The United Nations estimates that at least 9,000 people have died in the conflict but that estimate is old and believed low by opposition groups.

CNN's Saad Abedine, Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 5:19 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.