It was never really in doubt, but now it’s official. Syria’s current president, Bashar al-Assad, announced on Monday that he will be a candidate in the June 3 presidential elections.
Assad submitted his nomination to Syria’s constitutional court, according to Reuters. Ever since the Syrian parliament announced the official date for the elections a week ago, experts expected Assad to seek re-election, but he waited a week to announce his candidacy.
Assad, who has ruled the country since his father died in 2000, also called for calm, saying that “demonstration of joy expressed by supporters of any candidate for the presidency should be responsible.”
Before Assad’s announcement, six other candidates have come forward in what will formally be the first time Syrians can vote for someone not named Assad (Assad’s father was president until his death).
But experts have already said these elections will hardly be legitmate, labeling them as a “de-facto referendum,” a “parody of democracy,” and a “joke.”
“It’s just a game, just to say that they had elections, nothing more,” Dlshad Othman, a Syrian opposition activist and technologist who now lives in Washington D.C., told Mashable last week.
The United Nations, as well as the U.S., have already said that holding elections now jeopardizes a negotiated, diplomatic end to the civil war. But UN-backed international talks brokered by Lakhdar Brahimi, United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, have broken down in February.
The elections come as the country is still entrenched in a bloody three-year war that has left more than 150,000 people dead. The conflict started as largely peaceful demonstrations swept the country in March of 2011 on the heels of the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Assad responded to the protests with tanks and air-strikes, turning the demonstrations into a full-fledged war that now includes Sunni Muslim rebels and foreign jihadis fighting against Assad loyalists, backed by Iran and Russia.