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New blood achievement in the People’s council of Syria reflects Russian-Iranian quotas

A woman voting in the recent People’s Council elections in the regime-held areas (Russia Today)

A woman voting in the recent People’s Council elections in the regime-held areas (Russia Today)

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Enab Baladi – Yamen Moghrabi

Syrian parliamentary elections held by the Syrian regime on 19 July, have sparked a lot of controversies in addition to protests from some figures aligned with the Syrian regime in an unprecedented incident.  

The elections have seen the absence of faces that Syrian people used to see, such as Mohammed Hamsho and Turad al-Mulhem, while the former member and the president of “the Syrian Chambers of Industry Federation,” Engineer Fares al-Shihabi, launched a scathing attack on the electoral process. 

Enab Baladi met with some political analysts who highlighted that these elections carried Russian-Iranian quotas and regional and international messages.  

The absence of “the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce” from the council

Mohammed Hamsho, a Syrian businessman with extensive links to the Syrian government, announced his withdrawal from the election race on 17 July, through his personal Facebook page, just 48 hours before its date. Arif al-Shaar, a Syrian lawyer, believes that this step indicates that the parliamentary seats of independents were already determined. 

The withdrawal of Hamsho, who holds the post of the secretary of Damascus Chamber of Commerce and secretary of the Union of Syrian Chambers of Commerce, cannot come without being linked to pressure exerted from the Presidential Palace, or by allies of the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran.  

Hassan al-Nifi, a political analyst, in an interview with Enab Baladi, said that Hamsho’s withdrawal means “his prior knowledge of the election results,” due to his approach to the scenes of decision-making, especially the security ones. 

Al-Nifi added that Hamsho knows the best about the work mechanisms followed by the regime in choosing the members of parliament. 

Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper previously quoted unnamed sources as saying that Hamsho’s withdrawal from the elections was due to “his support by members of the Ba’ath Party” in collusion with the “Sham list,” which included Tarif Qutrash, Ghazwan al-Masri, Fahd Darwish Mahmoud, Muhammad Akram al-Ajlani, Muhammad Khaled al-Olabi, and Nuha Muhairi.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat said that the current Assistant Regional Secretary of the Syrian Regional Branch of the Ba’ath party, Hilal Al-Hilal, curtailed his visit to Aleppo suddenly, and he returned angrily to Damascus, threatening Hamsho, saying that he will punish the “Ba’athist comrades” colluding with the “Sham” list that Hamsho leads.

Al-Hilal held an urgent meeting with the members of the “Central Command” of Ba’ath party, according to the newspaper, and punished five Ba’athist leading members in the Damascus branch, which was considered a message to Hamsho, who decided to withdraw.

This comes days after the party’s “Central Commander” announced on 16 July that five of its leaders in the Damascus-based Ba’ath party were dismissed, according to the website “al-Watan Online.”

In addition to Hamsho, Fares al-Shihabi is considered one of the most prominent industrial and commercial figures who has close ties with the Syrian regime, and he is the president of “the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Industry” and one of the financial supporters of the Syrian regime.

Despite the commercial and political weight of al-Shihabi and his repeated appeals of the Syrian government to increase interest in industrial production in his city, Aleppo, to save the Syrian economy, he did not succeed in being a member of the People’s Council for the second time. It is worth mentioning that al-Shihabi was a member of the previous legislative session between 2016-2020. 

Al-Shihabi considered that his loss was “a punishment for his lack of the blind obedience to the growing system of corruption,” according to a post he wrote on 21 July to delete it later from his page, referring to the war waged against him by a party, he did not name, accusing it of recruiting stolen oil money and the demons of the earth to act against him.

Al-Shihabi expressed his “regret” for not withdrawing from the People’s Council elections after the orientation visit of the “comrade/Party member.” 

The head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, assigned al-Shihabi to the advisory council of the Council of Ministers in Syria, along with five other members, including businessmen, by decree “No.703” issued in November 2019.

Al-Shihabi owns shares in many real estate, commercial and educational companies, and he is a founding partner in “Cham Holding,” “Fransabank Bank Syria,” “al-Sharq Bank,” “Syrian Arab Insurance Company” and “Syrian Arab Trade Company.”

The Syrian regime renews blood with Russian-Iranian quotas

With the absence of some of the faces that Syrians are accustomed to in the parliament, the question arises about the regime’s goal of pushing the new faces to the fore, especially with the media mobilization of the elections carried out by the government and pro-government media outlets.

Besides, the Syrian regime takes further steps through the Baʽath Party or through its use of “former combatants” whom al-Assad met with on 14 July and invited them “to transfer their heroic, patriotic and military experience” to politics.

The new faces that have reached the People’s Council of Syria include figures, close to the Syrian regime’s allies, Russia and Iran, which indicates “a quota system in the council,” according to Zakariya Malhafji, a political analyst.

Malhafji, in an interview with Enab Baladi, pointed out that “Iran has tampered with the ballots greatly,” and there are some families with close ties to Iran, receiving direct support, amid the withdrawal or failure of figures affiliated with the Russian side, gaining seats in the council. 

According to Hassan al-Nifi, the replacement of faces comes with the regime’s attempt to “satisfy” new segments and faces of its supporters, give them new opportunities to benefit financially from. 

Speaking to Enab Baladi, al-Nifi highlighted that “Iran is actively involved in the domestic affairs of Syria, and the selection of some loyal or dependent figures is an expected movement by Iran. On the other hand, the Russians seem less present on this issue, given Iran’s ability and its precedence in penetrating the administrative, organizational, and social affairs of the regime.

For his part, Zakariya Malhafji sees that there are indications of “quotas” between Russia and Iran, through clashes between the Berri clan and the Qatarji family in Aleppo. 

Anti-government media outlets reported unconfirmed news about clashes between the two families, after the declaration of the election results, the family of Qatarji won a seat in the council unlike the family of Berri.  

New faces and the political process in Syria

There is talk about the regime’s efforts to grant seats in the council to the faces that help it in seeing any future political process in Syria, especially about the work of the Constitutional Committee.

However,  Hassan al-Nifi excludes the replacement process being linked to any future political process in Syria, or to the Constitutional Committee consisting of the opposition, civil society, and the regime, which seeks to write a new constitution for Syria. He added that the role of the People’s Council of Syria is limited to agreeing to any law that the Syrian regime wants to pass, The Council has never discussed a decision or objected to a decree issued by the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, or his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Al-Nifi does not believe that a political solution in Syria will be found through the Constitutional Committee, but rather the result of an international – Russian – American consensus that “passes” through the Constitutional Committee to legalize it, or as a result of the implementation of Resolution 2254, which calls for the formation of a transitional governing body in the country.

Consequently, the Constitutional Committee has nothing to do with the new faces in the People’s Council of Syria, according to al-Nifi, especially since the regime can pass any law that it wants regardless of the People’s Council of Syria.

 

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