Is formation of Election Commission by opposition SNC an attempt to gain legitimacy or legitimize al-Assad regime?

The head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Nasr al-Hariri, wants to run in the Syrian elections (Enab Baladi)

The head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Nasr al-Hariri, wants to run in the Syrian elections (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Louay Rhebani 

The announcement made by the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) of the formation of a “High Election Commission” raised several questions whether it is a step to represent the Syrian opposition in the election preparation process and the election process itself, it is a recognition of the legitimacy of the Syrian regime in running the elections or it is an SNC’s plan to normalize its relations with the Syrian regime intentionally or unintentionally.

Even though the head of the opposition SNC, Nasr al-Hariri, in a statement published on 20 November, stressed that the SNC adheres to the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers” and the implementation of its responsibilities towards UN Security Council Resolution No.2254, the Syrians considered the SNC’s entry into the election contest  against the Syrian regime is “a departure from “the fundamentals of the revolution.”

On 20 November, the SNC announced the High Election Commission (HEC) formation to compete in any future elections in Syria. 

The decision stated that the HEC aims to “empower the Syrian revolution forces and opposition to compete in any future presidential, parliamentary or local elections, and prepare the Syrian street to participate in the upcoming political entitlements, including the elections.”

According to the SNC, the statement comes in accordance with the requirements of the Geneva Declaration NO.1 and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.

According to the text of the statement, the HEC has many tasks to perform such as “laying down and implementing plans and strategies, preparing to participate in the upcoming political entitlements, including the referendum on the draft constitution, and raising awareness about the importance of participation in those entitlements” as well as “strengthening the legitimacy of the Syrian revolution and opposition forces, and creating an efficient mechanism to achieve the widest possible participation of Syrians at home and abroad.”

According to the Syrian election law, the Syrian presidential elections are scheduled to occur in April 2021, which was confirmed by Faisal al-Miqdad, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, on 12 November.

Futile pursuit of power contravenes “SNC’s” documents.

The issuance of a decision to create the HEC in this circumstance was a shock among Syria’s opposition activists and citizens, despite the clarifications issued by the “SNC” about the tasks of the HEC. 

In an interview with Enab Baladi, political analyst Hassan al-Nifi believes that Hariri seeks to leapfrog stages to consolidate the SNC’s legitimacy and establish his presence as a person holding a “delusional authority,” as he put it.

In response to the statement of the SNC head that the “HEC” will take into account the fundamentals of the revolution, al-Nifi said, “This is not accurate, and as usual the head of the SNC tries to legitimize his decisions by providing a cover for them,” citing the “SNC” bypassing the political transition basket (according to Resolution 2254), as discussions are currently limited to the constitutional committee basket only. On the other hand, the Syrian regime continues to procrastinate in this file to invest time without any serious interaction. Al-Nifi ruled out there would be talking about the rest of the constitution and election baskets.”

In turn, political analyst Samer al-Ani confirmed that this decision came with Hariri’s desire to play a major future role in Syria, with elections organized by the Syrian regime approaching. The SNC interfered with executive action and government decisions.

Al-Ani believes that this step is part of the contradictions between the SNC and the Syrian Interim Government (SIG), which calls for the SNC not to interfere in its executive work and decisions.

He pointed out that the decision was taken individually. In fact, the decision should have been studied by the Center for Strategic Studies in the SNC and then presented to the political and public body. `However, this was not done. 

According to the SNC documents, with the formation of “the transitional governing body, “the SNC” is dissolved automatically. Al-Ani stressed that the decision is a clear violation of the SNC’s internal system. He questioned, “How will an election commission be formed, while the statement confirms adherence to Resolution 2254?.”

Steps leading to recognition of al-Assad regime

Al-Ani pointed out that this step is kind of legitimizing the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, meaning that if Hariri runs the elections and Assad succeeds, then the opposition must recognize the legitimacy of al-Assad.

On the other hand, Hassan al-Nifi said, “The opposition has contributed to normalizing  the Syrian regime intentionally or unintentionally, since it accepted bypassing the transitional governing body and contenting itself with discussing the constitution (through the constitutional committee), and then elections under Assad’s authority.”

On 21 November, Yasser al-Farhan, a member of the political committee of the SNC, stressed that the SNC rejects any electoral process in which al-Assad, or any of the pillars of his rule, participates in crimes against humanity.

“The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) will not give any legitimacy to future elections in Syria before providing a safe and neutral environment,” al-Farhan highlighted in media statements, reported by the official “SNC” website.

He added that this necessarily requires achieving a political transition by forming a transitional governing body in accordance with the Geneva Declaration and UN Security Council Resolutions 2118 and 2254.

Misunderstanding… the idea of forming an HEC is not new. 

Vice-president of the SNC, Oqab Yahya, commented in an online messaging with Enab Baladi, on 20 November, on the reactions to the decision of forming the “HEC,” considering that some may not understand the purpose of the decision.

Yahya said, “There is a committee affiliated with the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which has been working for years on the electoral process, and we have to consider our choice for free and fair elections in accordance with the Geneva 1 statement and Resolution 2254.”

Yahya explained that “The SNC has been preparing for years what the four baskets require, starting with the first of the political transition, or what has come to be known as the“ safe environment” and the documents it needs, and the same is with regard to the constitutional process in order to have a new draft constitution that corresponds to or stems from the goals of the revolution, and the same applies to the fourth basket of elections.”

The former UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, gave a document with four agenda baskets to all parties in the Syria peace talks in 2017 to describe the general terms of governance and political transition, constitution, elections, and counterterrorism. The first basket includes establishing credible, inclusive, and non-sectarian governance within a target of six months.

Basket two addresses all issues relating to setting within a target of six months again, a schedule and process for drafting a new constitution.

Basket three addresses all issues related to ensuring that free and fair elections pursuant to a new constitution can be held within 18 months, under the supervision of the United Nations, including members of the diaspora eligible to participate

The third basket addresses all issues related to ensuring that free and fair elections pursuant to a new constitution can be held within 18 months, under the supervision of the United Nations, including members of the diaspora eligible to participate. 

Basket four addresses within the context of the overall transitional political process issues related to strategies of counter-terrorism, security, governance, and also medium-term confidence-building measures. 

Yahya added, “We know that the Syrian regime will not agree to either progress in the Constitutional Committee or the political process and that the Syrian regime, with its evident trends and with Russian and Iranian support, is to hold elections according to the status quo, without any change in the security services, the military establishment, and the rest of the required measures, such as releasing detainees, identifying the fate of the missing, opening relief corridors, and other conditions that must be met, mainly including the full supervision of the United Nations.

Vice-president of the SNC added, “Because we realize that this is not available, our prior position is known to boycott such elections, and we will have our choice, which we are working on preparing its components in different fields.”

He emphasized that “the SNC’s position is clear and committed to the fundamentals of the revolution, and to a political transition process that leads to a radical change of the regime, and the establishment of an alternative, pluralistic, civil, democratic system in which there is no place for the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, and its senior figures.”

 

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