Last updated: 8 May, 2012

Iran hails Syria vote as step towards reform

Iran said on Tuesday parliamentary elections in Syria held by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was a step towards reform, but expressed regret the vote was shunned by opposition groups.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in his weekly briefing that “the vote is the second step the Syrian government is taking in the path of reform,” after Assad’s promise of launching reforms.

Syria is the main Middle East ally of the Islamic republic, which has pledged its support to beleaguered Assad who has been facing a deadly revolt against his regime since mid-March 2011.

“Syrian people’s participation in the elections shows a great understanding for resolving their internal affairs through peaceful measures,” Mehmanparast said.

Syrians voted Monday in the country’s first “multiparty” parliamentary elections, dismissed by the opposition as a sham, in five decades against the backdrop of a violent crackdown by Assad’s autocratic regime on protesters.

The vote, also criticised by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, was held despite the unrest sweeping the country, which according to UN estimates has left more than 9,000 people killed so far.

People cast their ballots in Damascus neighbourhoods and in other regions, while in opposition strongholds residents boycotted the vote who instead held protests and a general strike.

Mehmanparast expressed regret about the boycott, and urged world powers and regional countries critical of Assad to let a hard-won truce brokered by international peace envoy, Kofi Annan, be implemented.

“We regret that some opposition groups in Syria did not participate in the elections… These groups should engage in a correct process so that reform can be realised,” he said.

“Our advice is that they should support the measures brokered by Kofi Annan, and let stability and security return to Syria in a peaceful atmosphere,” Mehmanparast added.

The tenuous UN-backed ceasefire came into effect on April 12, but has failed to take hold. On Monday, Ban said world powers were “in a race against time” to prevent all-out civil war in Syria.

He also criticised the elections through his spokesman Martin Nesirky, who said: “Only a comprehensive and inclusive political dialogue can lead to a genuine democratic future in Syria. These elections are not taking place within that framework.”

“Moreover, a democratic process cannot be successful while violence is still ongoing,” he added.