Syria holds elections for new parliament
Syrians started voting for a new parliament Sunday. However, there was lack of enthusiasm and some criticism - even in Syrian official newspapers - of the candidates' lack of detailed political programs.
Turnout was expected to be low. The ruling Baath Party and the National Progressive Front - a cluster of nine small parties allied with it - are assured of certain victory, regardless of the turnout in the election, since Syria's constitution reserves two-thirds of legislature for candidates from the ruling coalition.
The remaining seats will be filled by candidates running independently, but their candidacy must be preapproved by the government.
On their part, the authorities have called for a high turnout. In a speech broadcast by Syrian Television Saturday night, Interior Minister Bassam Abdel-Majid urged people to "exercise their electoral right" by choosing the most qualified candidates.
But Syrian opposition groups have called for a boycott of the balloting which they describe as a farce.