Syria starts counting votes in parliamentary polls

The voting process for Syria’s parliamentary elections has concluded and the counting work has begun amid peace talks between the Damascus government and opposition.

Staff at polling stations are opening the seal of ballot boxes and taking out the votes under the supervision of candidates’ representatives.

Preliminary estimates show that the voter turnout may far exceed the one recorded in the 2012 parliamentary polls.

“I was also in charge of the same region four years ago and there were a total of 900 votes in these two polling stations. Today there has been about 1,700 votes and I think this may be a common situation,” said Jamal Almouzen, manager of a polling station in Damascus.

According to local media, the elections started at 07:00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) and ended at 12:00 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) while people actively took part in the voting across the government-held regions.

A number of opposition parties were running in the race, but armed opposition groups have boycotted the vote and called it illegitimate. The ruling Ba’ath party is expected to prevail.

The results of the polls are expected to be released in the near future.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the parliamentary polls intended to avoid a “legal vacuum” before early elections are held under a new constitution.

Wednesday’s elections coincided with the beginning of the latest round of UN-brokered indirect negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition in the Swiss city of Geneva.

UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura meets with the delegation of the Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee during peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, April 13, 2016. ©Reuters

The last round of the Syria peace talks came to a halt on March 24 over disagreements on the role of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future.

The discussions come against the backdrop of a fragile ceasefire in the war-wracked country. The truce, brokered by the US and Russia, went into effect on February 27 across Syria, excluding terrorist groups such as Daesh and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis it blames on some foreign states for more than five years. The Militancy has left over 470,000 people dead, according to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research.

Backed by the Russian air cover, Syrian forces have managed to liberate many militant-held areas over the past few months.

By Press TV