Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Meaningless Referendum

Bashar al-Assad went and had himself a referendum on a constitution that his own regime put together that he claims sufficient to end the protests against his regime.
Activists on Sunday boycotted the vote on the draft constitution, one in a series of steps Mr. Assad has pledged to open up a political system dominated by the ruling Baath Party since 1963 and his own family since 1970. Amid a four-week bombardment of Homs with heavy artillery, activists hardly heeded the vote—except with rage and humor.

In a neighborhood just outside the capital Damascus, they burned tires and set up roadblocks to protest the referendum. In the southern cities around Deraa, they called a general strike that shut down shops and schools.

And in towns across the country, they filmed video skits mocking the process and what they portrayed as a government attempt to overshadow its violent crackdown with gestures at a political overhaul.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad voted in a referendum for a new constitution on Sunday that could keep him in power until 2028. (Video: Reuters/Photo: AP)

"From what I can hear from my bunker, I think the only thing dropping into the ballot boxes, if they're there, are bombs," said an activist in Homs. He spoke by Skype via a satellite connection amid an electricity blackout and what he said was shelling across Homs, including the city center for the first time on Sunday.

But in Damascus and Aleppo, the country's two largest cities and strongholds of support for the president, many young Syrians said they took part in the vote. Syrian state media broadcast scenes of a large rally in the capital supporting the new constitution, and of Syrians voting at polling stations across the country.

State TV also showed Mr. Assad and his wife voting at a station after making their way through a crowd of cheering people, who flung their arms at the president and snapped pictures of him with their cellphones.
The opposition groups have boycotted the referendum, but the real news is that the regime continues murdering its own citizens.

Considering that Assad's regime controls media outlets, it's going to try and shape the referendum vote and the protests to his advantage.

The fact is that Assad couldn't care about the referendum. It's just another means for control, and that's all he's interested in. Real power is wielded in the form of arms and crushing the opposition that has the audacity to stand up against the regime. Murdering those that stand in the way of the regime is how the regime is staying in power. It's how Assad's father did it; it's how Assad's doing it, and it may yet be Assad's undoing.

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