Syrians vote in 'theatrical election'

In Syria's Douma, political banners sway gently above piles of rubble and in front of bullet-pocked buildings.

For the first time in nearly a decade of war, voting took place in the former rebel bastion on Sunday (July 19), two years after it was recaptured by the Syrian army.

The parliamentary election was being held in 7,000 polling stations across government-controlled territory as the country struggles under a collapsing economy and new U.S. sanctions aimed at holding President Bashir al-Assad to account.

In Douma, under the shadow of Assad's smiling portrait, voters such as Ziad said they were worried about the rising cost of living.

"I came to vote in the parliamentary elections because we want them to work to lift the sanctions off Syria, we want to live in safety and for the rising prices to go down, that's all we want."

With no real opposition to Assad and his allies, no surprises were expected from the vote.

The Syrian National Coalition, an opposition bloc based in Turkey, called it a "theatrical election by the Assad regime" while millions remain uprooted or in exile by a war that has killed hundreds of thousands.

Douma itself was the site of a suspected poison gas attack in 2018 that killed dozens of people and prompted Western missile strikes.

Syria and Russia denied any chemical attack took place - but thanks to help from Vladimir Putin, as well as Iran, Assad now holds more of Syria than at any time in the war, with the northeast in Kurdish hands, and rebels confined to a northwest corner near the Turkish border.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting