Syrians go to polls in parliamentary elections against the backdrop of a generally-holding ceasefire in the war-hit country and peace talks between government and opposition.
Polling stations opened at 07:00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT), with the official SANA news agency saying they will remain open until 7 p.m. (1800 GMT).
Voting, it said, could be extended for five hours by the Higher Judicial Committee for Elections depending on the turnout which it reported high at the opening hours.
More than 7,300 polling stations have been set up across the government-held regions in the country to gather votes. Syrian voters are electing members of the 250-seat parliament out of some 3,500 candidates.
A number of opposition parties are running in the race, but the ruling Ba’ath party is expected to prevail. Armed opposition groups have boycotted the vote and called it illegitimate.
The polls coincide with the beginning of a second round of UN-brokered indirect talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva, with the future of President Bashar al-Assad being a key sticking point.
The negotiations are expected to focus on finding a roadmap to peace, aimed at ending the five-year conflict in the Arab country.
The last round of the UN-backed peace talks for Syria came to a halt on March 24 over disagreements on the role of Assad in Syria’s future.
The foreign-backed Syrian opposition says Assad must step down before a transitional government can be established.
The Syrian government says the vote, which is held in areas controlled by Damascus, is constitutional and separate from the talks in Geneva.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 270,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Some reports, however, put the death toll at as high as 470,000.
By Press TV