It is said of elections, that "'Yes' only ever has any real meaning, if 'No' is a realistic alternative." This June, those Syrian cities and villages still under the Assad regime's control will be subjected to a disgraceful spectacle that has nothing to do with real democracy. The recent sham of a voting process at the regime's embassy in Beirut provides a preview of what to expect.
For weeks leading up to the "vote" in Beirut, Syrian refugees in Lebanon were subjected to endless threats of repercussions should they fail to cast a vote for Bashar Assad; passports would not be renewed, homes abandoned in Syria would be confiscated. Refugees in Lebanese areas dominated by the regime's political allies (such as Hezbollah) were made to feel that their continued security and well being depended on appearing at the regime's embassy on the appointed day.
This was also evident at the "polling station" at the regime's Beirut embassy. So indifferent were the regime's officials to the actual vote, that the entire process was a mess. As reported by foreign reporters on hand, no checks of identity papers or voter lists were made. No anonymity was afforded to those casting their votes. Indeed, no effort was even made to avoid signs of blatant partisanship on the part of the officials overseeing the votes. Such safeguards are the barest minimum precautions to be expected in any credible election.
But as we have seen, a credible election is not something the Assad regime is concerned with; what they crave is a spectacle, the nature of which has remained unchanged since Hafez Assad seized power in 1970. The actual results have been decided beforehand. It is a charade the Syrian people are all too familiar with. It was to do away with such insulting and demeaning forced displays that the people of Syria demonstrated in early 2011, and have continued to fight for their rights and freedoms in the face of the most brutal oppression of this century.
The Blood Elections, as Syrians have taken to calling them, will not be the salvation of the regime. Indeed, this orchestrated spectacle slams the door on the political solution to the Syrian conflict that the Syrian people crave, which we have sought, and which the international community has endorsed. Anytime the regime drops a murderous barrel bomb anywhere in the country, it is because the people of those areas insisted on saying "No" to the worst dictatorship to have ever seized power in the history of the country.
Ghadbian, an associate professor of Political Science and Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas, is the Special Representative to the United States for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.