Several days before the May 26 kickoff of presidential voting in Syria, incumbent Bashar al-Assad and his government have been proclaiming the integrity of an election that handed him a fourth seven-year-term and a second electoral victory during a decade of civil war.
The Assad family has ruled Syria for 51 years. Bashar Assad came to power in 2000 following the death of his father, Hafez Assad.
Rights groups, along with U.S. and European Union officials and the Syrian political opposition, say the election was a sham.
That hasn’t stopped Assad’s allies in Russia from trying to create the illusion of authenticity with one-sided news coverage and social media posts.
“Syrian President Bashar Assad wins re-election with 95.1% of votes,” blared the headline on a breaking news alert from the Russian state-owned news site RT, as results were announced on May 27.
The headline of an RT op-ed declared: “Today I saw Syrians dancing and celebrating life, and a return to peace – but, of course, the Western media won’t report that.”
Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency quoted Dmitry Sablin, a member of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, who is coordinating a parliamentary group for relations with Syrian lawmakers, as saying:
“We can see that everyone has the opportunity to freely cast their ballots, and the election meets all international standards.”
However, judging by accounts from watchdog groups and Syrian refugees, and the process outlined in a key United Nations resolution defining a roadmap to peace for Syria, that claim is false.