‘Hope through Werken’ is the slogan of Bashar al-Assad with which he will undoubtedly win the Syrian presidential election for the fourth time in a row with gigantic figures. The man who destroyed his own country, and who has hundreds of thousands of deaths and countless poison gas attacks on his conscience, now presents himself to his morring following as the leader who won the war and will do everything to rebuild his ruined country.
An almost impossible task: the damage of ten years of war runs in hundreds of billions. Nine out of ten Syrians live in poverty, while the hoarming inflation makes people unable to buy a shawarma sandwich on the street corner. A totally hopeless situation, but Assad and his clan know of no neighborhoods. In order to spawn his dissatisfied constituents at the last minute, the President offered interest-free loans to officials. He also released hundreds of people.
Assad hopes to regain some legitimacy with the election, with the aim of attracting foreign investors. It will probably have little effect in the West, but in the Arab world the dictator is already slowly accepted into grace. Even a renewed membership of the Arab League beckons.
Elections are held only in the areas controlled by the regime, about two-thirds of the country. Assad has two challengers: a former member of his government and – for the first time – someone of the “opposition”. The last one, Mahmoud Ahmad Marei, is convinced that everything will be fair. “We meet all the conditions for free elections according to international standards,” says Marei against an Iranian press agency.
Candidates must have lived in Syria for at least 10 consecutive years, leaving all actual opposition leaders residing abroad out of the boat in advance. Assad won the previous election, in 2014, according to the official result with 89 percent of the vote. Now the 55-year-old President is going for a fourth term of seven years, whereby Iranian observers will check that the electoral process is being conducted fairly.