Young Arab Spring Blog

Rojava's Approach towards Presidential Election in Syria

Yasin Duman*

Compared to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the effects of the Arab Spring have been relatively more intense and protracting in Syria: there have been thousands of reported casualties, millions of displaced people and billions of money spent on the war.

There are many parties internally and externally involved that have incompatible interests because their positions and needs have not been well-matched. The international military, diplomatic and financial attempts did not help the parties find a resolution. The conferences in Geneva, meetings in other international settings and military support by the secondary parties have not provided any political solutions and subsequently the death toll has risen to 160,000. Syria, under such conditions, went to the polls last Tuesday for the presidential election.

It has been reported that 27% of the voters had not gone to the polls and Bashar al-Assad ended up winning the election once again by gaining 88.7 % of the total votes. The other two candidates, Maher Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri, had little to no chance against Assad. Some news agencies reported them as the opposition candidates 'tolerated' by Assad in the first multi-candidate presidential election in Syria.

Rojava Democratic Autonomous Administrations in Efrîn, Kobanê and the Cizîre Cantons, soon after the Syrian officials announced the election, declared that the autonomous regions would not allow the Syrian government to set the polls in those cantons. The presidency of the Cizîre Canton, however, stated that the government could only set up the polls at its military headquarters in Qamişlo and Hesekê but in no other regions in Rojava. Besides that, the presidencies in other cantons denounced the election all together and stated that it was not a legitimate process and the actions performed by the government was just a theater performance performed by Assad and as such would not be recognized by the people in Rojava. In Hesekê, Asayîş (Public Security) Forces of Rojava impounded and burned the ballot boxes which were already filled with votes for Assad.

Despite these decisions and moves, the Kurds in Rojava have been accused of cooperating with Assad and not supporting the opposition. Their manner during the elections and their clashes with pro-Assad armed forces in Hesekê city, and Kurdish-populated Şêx Meqsûd (Sheikh Maqsoud), and Eşrefiye (Ashrafihay) districts of Aleppo have been shown as evidence by the Kurds to reject such accusations. A few weeks ago, the Kurds in Rojava declared the "Kurdish Initiative for a Democratic Syria" and called on all opposition parties to cooperate with them to attain a political and democratic resolution, however, no official statement has come forth from the Syrian National Coalition or other opposition groups except for the Hayat al-Tansiq who visited the Rojava cantons and declared their support for the initiative.

The results of the election may alter the positions and future moves of the parties involved. The Syrian government has not made any official statement related to whether the Rojava Autonomy will be recognized or not but the Kurds seem quite committed to set their government in Rojava and weaken the state's authority in Efrîn, Kobanê and Cizîre. Whether the Syrian opposition forces will support the Kurds still remains unanswered because the international powers backing the opposition, as of today, have not changed their perspective pertaining to Rojava and the Kurds.

* Research Assistant at POMEAS