DAMASCUS: Syrians voted in a parliamentary election today touted by authorities as a milestone of political reform but dismissed by the opposition as a facade.
Violence persisted across the country between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to end four decades of dynastic rule by his family.
In northern Idlib province, residents reported gunfire and explosions and in the city of Hama rebels and soldiers clashed, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, three dissidents were killed in a dawn raid by government troops, the Observatory added, underlining the challenge of holding a credible poll and complicating the task of UN observers monitoring a ceasefire declared on April 12.
Since succeeding his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000, Assad has relied on a pliant parliament to rubber-stamp the will of the ruling family in the majority Sunni Muslim country.
The assembly currently does not have a single opposition member and official media said half the seats would be reserved for “representatives of workers and peasants,” whose unions are controlled by Assad’s Baath Party.
Opposition figures are boycotting the vote, saying Syria’s revised constitution has changed nothing.
Activist Musaab al-Hamadee said people were striking in Hama and that activists were burning tyres in the streets.
In Qalaat al-Madeeq, a village in Hama province, video which activists say was filmed today showed the streets completely deserted and shops shuttered.