Syria screens candidates in polls expected to re-elect Assad

·2-min read

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syria will decide within 12 days a final list of candidates for presidential polls next month, a government minister said on Thursday, setting the stage for an event all but certain to reinstate President Bashar al-Assad for a fourth term.

Minister of Information Imad Sarah told reporters the constitutional court would look into the eligibility of 51 candidates, including Assad, for the May 26 vote.

Assad has ruled since 2000, succeeding his father who had seized power in a 1970 coup. Syria has suffered civil war since 2011, although Assad's government has captured most territory once held by rebels trying to topple him.

Washington and the Syrian opposition have denounced the planned election as a farce designed to cement Assad's authoritarian rule.

Top U.N. officials said this month the election did not fulfil Security Council resolutions, which call for a political process to end the conflict, a new constitution, and elections administered under U.N. supervision with the "highest standards of transparency and accountability".

Syria's rubber stamp parliament ended a 10-day period on Wednesday for nominations for those seeking to stand in the election. Each candidate needs support from at least 35 members of parliament, and candidates must have lived in Syria for the last 10 years, ruling out exiled opposition figures from standing.

"We will be studying the legality of the files of the candidates," the head of the higher constitutional court, Jihad Al Laham, told state media.

Syria's multi-sided conflict, which began with a 2011 crackdown against anti-government protests, has sucked in world powers, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. Over the past several years, Assad, supported by Russian and Iranian allies, has regained control of most of the country.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Kinda Makieh)