Syria regime fears diaspora vote could tip the balance
An international bid to ensure Syrians abroad are allowed to vote in potential future elections is being seen by the regime in Damascus as an attempt to ensure it loses.
Beirut: An international bid to ensure Syrians abroad are allowed to vote in potential future elections is being seen by the regime in Damascus as an attempt to ensure it loses.
At issue is a clause in the final communique produced by international talks in Vienna last week that included 17 countries -- among them key regime backers Russia and Iran.
It stipulates that future elections following a transition process must be held "under UN supervision" and "with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate".
"Countries hostile to Syria prevented Syrians from voting in their embassies during the 2014 (presidential) elections," said Wadah Abed Rabbo, editor-in-chief of Syria's Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime.
"Today we see them relentlessly demanding the vote for Syrian refugees or those living abroad, which raises questions about the intentions of these countries."
His newspaper on Sunday ripped into the communique produced by the unprecedented talks to try to end more than four years of a war that has killed upwards of 250,000 people.
"The Vienna process seems modelled on the positions of Damascus and Moscow, because several provisions affirm the right and the freedom of Syrians to determine their fate without external interference," the daily said.
"But the communique also includes a lot of external interference.
"Such interference does not stop at the choice of opposition figures (to participate in a transitional government) but extends to authorising Syrian refugees to take part in the political process, even though they are subject to all kinds of material, moral and even administrative blackmail."
The daily accused the "enemies of Syria" of planning to exploit diaspora voters "to win votes and interfere indirectly in the shaping of the country's future".
Backers of Syria's opposition have long insisted that President Bashar al-Assad cannot play a role in the country's future.
US diplomats see including the diaspora voting clause in the electoral section of the communique as a victory for their campaign to sideline the embattled leader.
Experts say free and fair elections that include the Syrian diaspora would almost certainly see the regime ousted.
"If real elections were held, including the diaspora, the regime would be beaten by a candidate from or supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, who are the only ones able to mobilise the Sunnis in the diaspora," said Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.