Syrians Vote in ‘Joke’ Elections, Complete With Facebook Ads

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Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, casts his vote as Syrian first lady Asma Assad, right, stands next to him at a polling station, in Damascus, Syria, on June 3, 2014.
Image: SANA/Associated Press

Thousands of Syrians went to the polls on Tuesday in the country’s first presidential elections with more than one candidate. Despite the apparent show of democracy, and two nominal opponents, Syria’s current president, Bashar al-Assad, will remain in power.

Experts have called these elections a “joke.” There was no voting in the areas of the country controlled by the rebels. And one of Assad’s two opponents has all but asked Syrians to vote for the current president.

“The people in Syria are calling for stability and security, and to fight terrorism. They want military leadership and President Assad is doing well in this,” rival candidate Hassan al-Nouri said on the eve of the elections.

A controversial Facebook page, apparently controlled by the regime, bought sponsored posts promoting Assad’s campaign, prompting activists to call for Facebook to remove them.


Screenshot of the sponsored posts on Facebook, bought by Sawa, taken by the non profit The Syria Campaign.

On Tuesday, the page shared a video of Assad and his wife casting a ballot with dramatic music in the background.

The Syrian government also used Instagram to share pictures of polling stations full with voters, using hashtags like #proud, #history, and #together.

More than 9,000 polling station set up for the elections were closely guarded. Syrian rebels announced that they were boycotting the polls, calling them “blood elections.”

Many Syrians, however, showed support for Assad — lining up to vote holding signs with Assad’s face, and even taking selfies with the president.

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