Last updated: 24 April, 2014

Businessman up for Syria presidential vote

A businessman who studied in the United States on Thursday became the second hopeful to register for Syria’s controversial June presidential election which is expected to return incumbent Bashar al-Assad to office.

Like the first would-be candidate to declare, Hassan Abdullah al-Nuri is a member of the regime-tolerated opposition.

The authorities have not spelt out how they plan to hold a credible election amid a raging civil war in which they have lost control of large swathes of the country to rebel groups and militias.

The Syrian opposition has slammed the planned vote as a “farce”, while the United Nations and the Arab League have warned it will deal a heavy blow to efforts to broker a negotiated peace.

“We announce the candidacy of Hassan Abdullah al-Nuri for the presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic,” said parliament speaker Mohammad al-Lahham.

His candidacy was announced a day after that of independent member of parliament and former communist Maher al-Hajjar.

An ex-MP and former secretary of state for administrative development, Nuri was born in Damascus in 1960 and has five children.

He heads the National Initiative for Change, an opposition group tolerated by the Assad government.

According to state television, he took two masters degrees in the United States, the first in management at the University of Wisconsin, the second in human resources development at John F. Kennedy University in California.

Assad has yet to announce his own candidacy. In January, he told AFP there were strong chances he would stand.

Would-be candidates must win the support of at least 35 of Syria’s 250 MPs to stand.

Of those, a full 160 are members of the Baath party, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist for nearly 50 years.

Electoral rules bar anyone who has not lived in Syria continuously for the past 10 years from standing, effectively excluding most of the opposition.