“Tens of thousands of Assad supporters flocked to the hilltop embassy in a town south-east of the Lebanese capital to cast ballots, snarling traffic outside, keeping schoolchildren trapped in buses for hours and forcing some schools to cancel scheduled exams. Lebanon has more than a million Syrian refugees. “With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Bashar” and “long live Syria!” were some of the chants heard from many in the crowd. Despite the carnage in Syria, the country’s president has retained significant support among large sections of the population, particularly among Christians, Alawites and other religious minorities……………”
Comparing Middle East elections and regional and international reactions to them can be enlightening and educational:
- Remember when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won re-election as president of Iran in 2009? He won with only about 57% of the vote, allegedly with some “irregularities”. There was a huge media and political circus from Riyadh through London and Paris all the way to Washington and New York. Even absolute tribal ruling families from Riyadh through Doha to Manama and Abu Dhabi lamented the sorry state of democracy in Iran. It was about several weeks of “tsk tsk”. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opined publicly that Iran was now a “military dictatorship” (she was talking about Iran and not about Egypt or China). When Rouhani won his election in 2013 it was a different story.
- Back to Egypt and her perpetually funny non-elections under both Mubarak and Sisi (not under Morsi: he won a close election and fairly, maybe because the Mubarak bureaucracy was still running Egypt and tried to lose him the election). Now Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi apparently unofficially has his 98% victory (Al Ahram early estimates), in true Arab style (not as perfect as North Korean style, but close).
- On to Syria. The cheeky Bashar Al Assad is also running in his own election in Syria, but he has more opponents on the ballot than Al Sisi. The shocking thing may be that percentage voter turnout among Syrians is probably much higher than in Egypt: that is what it looks like now. Even Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, most of them Sunnis, are voting heavily, no doubt most of them for Al Assad whose days are supposedly numbered. The media pictures from refugee camps and from Beirut and Amman and other places show long lines of Syrian exiles voting for the man whose actions supposedly made them refugees. Which is puzzling, given that they are allegedly supposed to be eager for the Al Saud and Al Thani and Al Hollande and Al McCain and a bunch of Al Others to liberate their country for democracy.
- Meanwhile Al Sisi, the newest dictator on the bloc and his henchmen have tried to extend voting time and threaten people to vote in order to avoid embarrassing low turnout.
When it is all over we will have the expected predictable results, with Al Sisi matching or perhaps outdoing Mubarak in his “victory” margin in the upper nineties. Early results claim he won by nearly 98% but still less than Kim Jon Un’s victory margin and less than the Saudi King’s margin.
- The Western powers and others will sigh of relief and welcome the new “democratic” order in Egypt, except that it is an old order, actually older than the old order in Syria. And it is also no more democratic than the one in Syria.
- Then there is divided Iraq, which is beset with Wahhabi terrorist bombings almost every day, yet it manages to complete its elections. They are imperfect and tinged with both sectarian and tribal prejudices, but they don’t seem to need to coerce and threaten people to vote.