Assad to use referendum to prove legitimacy

The opposition had called for a boycott of the referendum, which abolishes the monopoly of Assad`s Baath party.

Beirut: The Syrian regime will use the
referendum on a new constitution to try to prove its
legitimacy in the face of Western condemnation of its deadly
crackdown on dissent, analysts said Tuesday.

"This referendum is a success for the Syrians who have
faith in reforms and is a defeat for the Arab regimes and the
West who want to destabilise our country," government daily
Tishrin said.

The new constitution was approved by 89.4 per cent of
votes cast in Sunday`s referendum which saw 57.4 per cent of
those eligible casting their votes, despite boycott calls and
fresh bloodshed, according to official figures.

"The regime will use the referendum to say it has the
majority of the people with it, it has undertaken reforms and
is fighting against the Salafist groups and terrorists," said
Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American
University of Beirut.

But "the numbers don`t make sense in the middle of this
bloodbath," he said.

The opposition had called for a boycott of the referendum,
which abolishes the monopoly of Assad`s Baath party but leaves
considerable powers in the hands of the head of state.

President "Bashar al-Assad may use the referendum to
reassure his supporters by telling them `you were right to
believe I am a reformist,`" said Thomas Pierret, lecturer of
contemporary Islam at the University of Edinburgh.

"And it can be used by his Russian ally to tell the West:
`See, Assad made reforms,`" he said.
"But objectively speaking, the credibility of the
referendum is lost. Its promise of reforms is meaningless. It
will be believed by those who already support the plan, but
will not convince any opponent, even the moderates."

Pierret also doubted that 57 per cent of registered voters
cast their votes.

"This is a huge figure and probably fanciful, straight out
of the imagination of Syrian officials... in a country in
revolution and where the opposition called for a boycott of
the vote, which was not even held in several regions," he
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland questioned
how "any kind of democratic process" could take place while
Syrian government guns, tanks and artillery were still firing
into Homs and other cities.

"We dismiss it (the referendum) as absolutely cynical,"
Nuland said of the balloting.
"Essentially what he`s done here is put a piece of paper
that he controls to a vote that he controls so that he can try
to maintain control," Nuland said, referring to Assad.

The United Nations also cast doubt on the credibility of
the referendum.
"It is unlikely to be credible in a context of pervasive
violence and mass human rights violations," UN deputy
spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.


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