Speaking to Russian News RIA Novosti agency Syrian President Bashar al Assad agreed to early presidential elections if majority of the people want it. He did not elaborate how this majority view will be ascertained. President Assad was elected to a 7 years term in 2014 securing over 88% vote in an election that was limited to the areas controlled by his regime.
“Is there popular will to hold early presidential elections? If there is, I don’t have a problem with it,” Assad told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, according to an Arabic-language transcript provided by Damascus.
World powers are demanding removal of Assad and do not consider his election as president legitimate. Syrian envoy engaged in the negotiations has ruled out removal of Assad as pre-condition to talks. He has stated repeatedly that it is upto the people of Syria to decide and this sovereign right of the people is non-negotiable.
Syria will be conducting a parliamentary elections on April 13th for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution that might be acceptable to all parties. President Assad in an earlier statement ruled out federalism being suited for his small country. He said that Syria is largely a homogeneous country and does not have large segments of diverse ethnicity.
The crisis in Syria has cost estimated 250,000 lives and one of the largest migration crisis in recent history. Syrian refugees are now seeking asylum in many European countries mostly in Germany and Austria. Europe recently signed a deal with Turkey to stop flow of migrants in return for an economic aid and opening of membership negotiations into EU.