AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
DAMASCUS: Syria’s authorities and opposition traded charges today over who was behind the blast that rocked Damascus and Aleppo, on the eve of parliamentary polls designed to boost the regime’s legitimacy.
Overnight violence in Damascus province killed three people, a rights watchdog said, as the authorities made final preparations for a vote it says is crucial for building “the new Syria” but which the opposition has already dismissed as a “farce.”
Information Minister Adnan Mahmud said that voting on Monday was an act of defiance. “By taking part in the election, Syrians are defying the campaign of terrorism and aggression led by international and regional parties implicated in a terrorist war against our country,” he said in a statement.
The opposition blamed the regime for two bomb blasts on Saturday in Damascus and one in Aleppo, where according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights an explosion hit a car wash as a bus was passing by, killing at least five people.
Today, a young man was gunned down by regime troops at night in the town of Al-Tal, while an explosion killed two in Daf al-Shouk area.
Army attacks on rebel positions continued elsewhere in Syria, with several people wounded and a number of houses destroyed when the Arida village in central Homs province was shelled.
In Deir Ezzor, government troops carried out a number of raids and made arrests in the town of Al-Quriya.
Monday’s vote, against a backdrop of unrest which the Observatory says has killed more than 11,000 people since March last year, will do little to change the autocratic country, according to regime critics and analysts.
The vote, initially scheduled for September 2011, was postponed to May 7 this year after President Bashar al-Assad announced the launch of a reform process.
Security and logistical concerns notwithstanding, the credibility of the vote has also been hit by the refusal of the main opposition forces to participate.
Monday’s election will be the first time Syria has held multi-party elections since the adoption in February by referendum of a new constitution that ended the five-decade stranglehold on power of the ruling Baath party.