All You Need To Know About The Controversial Syria Elections

All You Need To Know About The Controversial Syria Elections

Syria has come in focus amidst its elections. However, they are widely being called ‘rigged’ in favour of Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power since 2000 and is associated with an authoritarian regime. In that light, let’s look at his rule in Syria.

Crux of the Matter

Recent News
Syria will have its Presidential elections on 26th May. 3 candidates out of 51 applications have been approved, with one of those three being President Bashar Assad. However, the elections are widely being called ‘sham’.

  • AP News has called it “largely symbolic election… certain to be won by President Bashar Assad”.
  • The Guardian, meanwhile, ran the headline “Civil war, ruin, raging poverty… but Assad is guaranteed to win Syria’s fake election”.

Assad Rule In Syria

  • It began with Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father).
  • 1970: Hafez, then Defence Minister, became President by military coup.
  • Hafez was Syria’s 1st leader from Alawite sect of Shia in a Sunni majority nation. He was known for his brutal regime.
  • His elder son Basil, involved in military and politics was widely considered the successor. Bashar, on the other hand, trained as an ‘eye doctor’ in first Syria then London.

Initial Days Of Bashar Regime

  • Basil died in a car crash in 1994, after which Bashar became President in 2000.
  • Initially praised for promising more ‘democracy’ (after his father’s brutal regime).
  • Damascus Spring’ also came briefly in 2000, where press and opposition leaders were given more freedom.

Later On

  • However, the Spring didn’t last long as the crackdown started within a year.
  • Worst came in 2011 Arab Spring, after pro-democracy protests spread across Arab nations.
  • Bashar regime launched strong crackdown on protesters, which quickly became a civil war.

Syrian Civil War

  • The war is now roughly divided along religious sect (although foreign powers are intervening for ‘other’ reasons).
  • However, it’s been devastating for the people with more than 388,000 casualties reported as per AFP.

Main Groups

  • Syrian Govt and pro-Bashar forces (mainly from Shia sect): Iran, Hezbollah (Lebanon), and Russia.
  • Rebels (mainly from Sunni sect): Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Islamic State, and US.

  • Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is a graduate of King’s College London in 1996. She had a career in investment banking at J.P. Morgan before her marriage. 
  • Bashar al-Assad belongs to the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party – Syria Region.
  • Bashar al-Assad began his career as a doctor in the Syrian Army after graduating from Damascus University’s medical school in 1988.

Dire Straits Of Yemen


While dealing with a history of wars and diseases, the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening to make Yemen a country “without a functioning health system”.

Crux of the Matter

The Civil War

  • 2011: Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi replaces Ali Abdullah Saleh as President after anti-government protests
  • 2014: Houthi Shia Muslim rebel group seizes Saada province, making Hadi flee to Saudi Arabia
  • 2015: Saudi Arabia and other chiefly Sunni states backed by US, UK and France attack Yemen, now under Houthi rule
  • 2017: Saleh gets killed by Houthi group
  • 2018: The Saudi coalition attacks the Hudaydah port, affecting essential supplies of 2/3rd of the population
  • Saudi Arabia claims Iran is backing Houthi due to Shia affinity, which Iran denies

Civilian Impact
Between 2015-18, 85,000 children died by malnutrition in Yemen. Health organizations have declared that 80% of the population is in urgent need of medical care. The war alone has caused 100,000 deaths till date.

The war has also rendered the healthcare system of the country ineffective. In 2016, even ‘Medecins Sans Frontieres’ or Doctors Without Borders withdrew from the hospital due to attacks on medical workers and hospitals.

Cholera Concern
Cholera outbreak started in Yemen in October 2016, which was aggravated by damage to hospitals and water facilities caused by the civil war. Over 1.2 million cases were reported by 2018, and out of the total deaths recorded, 58% were children. Already impacted by the Covid-19, the country saw further adversity as 113,000 cases of Cholera were recorded in 2020.

Coronavirus Crisis
While only 705 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Yemen, experts have pointed an under-reporting done in the records as observed in the exponential increase in cremation. The situation has been aggravated by a complete lack of functioning medical system, as observed in the fact that the ratio of people to ventilators is 2.5 million to 1.

Further trouble awaits the country as the UN would withdraw 30 of its 41 schemes from it if the funding is not sufficient, which stands at 50% of the requisite.

The world will have to witness what happens in a country without a functioning health system battling COVID-19.

United Nations (UN) on Yemen
  • Yemen is one of the least developed countries in the world and in 2019 the United Nations reported that Yemen is the country with the most people in need of humanitarian aid, about 24 million people out of a total of 28.5 million, or 85% of its population.
  • The Persian Gulf is a mediterranean sea in Western Asia. The body of water is an extension of the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Hormuz and lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest. The body of water is historically and internationally known as the “Persian Gulf”. Some Arab governments refer to it as the “Arabian Gulf”.
  • Hayel Saeed An’am was a Yemeni businessman and the founder of HSA Group (Hayel Saeed Anam Group), a conglomerate that has a revenue turnover as large as $10 billion. He died on April 23, 1990 with an estimated net worth of $12 billion, of which 30% was pledged to the welfare foundation which he founded.