Top UN officials warn against Syrian presidential polls

United Nations, April 22: Top UN officials have cautioned that Syria’s newly announced presidential elections have a risk of undermining efforts to achieve a political solution to the country’s three-year-old conflict, a UN spokesperson said here Monday.

“The secretary-general and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, have repeatedly warned that the holding of elections in the current circumstances, amid the ongoing conflict and massive displacement, will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution that the country so urgently needs,” the UN chief’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, told media.

“Such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Communique,” Dujarric said in reference to an action plan adopted in June 2012 during the first international conference on the Syrian conflict, calling for a political transition in the country.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson said the UN would ” nonetheless continue to search and build upon any opening for a solution to the tragedy in Syria”.

Syrian parliament Monday voted to hold presidential elections June 3, despite objections by opposition leaders. Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham said Monday the Higher Constitutional Court will start accepting applications as early as Tuesday for the country’s first multi-candidate poll since the adoption of current constitution.

The election announcement angered the opposition, as well as Western powers and their regional allies, which have labeled the upcoming poll a “parody of democracy”.

Opposition leaders questioned the integrity and transparency of conducting elections during an ongoing war that has transformed many Syrian cities and suburbs into battlefields, which would make voting in these areas extremely difficult.

According to the UN, well over 100,000 people have been killed and an estimated 9 million others driven from their homes since opposition protesters first sought to oust President Bashar al- Assad and his government in March 2011. In addition, there are currently more than 2.4 million Syrian refugees registered in the region.

IANS