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Rebels shell Aleppo as Syria votes

Syrian rebels have responded to the presidential elections with a ferocious campaign on regime-held areas in Aleppo.
A rebel fighter takes a position as he fires his weapon towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad who are stationed in Wadi al-Deif military camp in Idlib province June 1, 2014. Picture taken June 1, 2014. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR3RS4Y

ALEPPO, Syria — They’ve been called the blood elections by the Syrian opposition, and that name might be appropriate in more ways than one. As the war and slaughter continue to engulf most of this tormented nation, holding presidential elections might seem very bizarre and macabre, yet there is undeniable logic in it all. For the regime, it is not about filling a constitutional void, or even about legitimacy, as no one is under the illusion that these elections are anywhere near free and fair. In fact, the outcome is a foregone conclusion: another seven-year mandate for Bashar al-Assad and another rubber stamp vote, albeit this time with two token contenders. All previous elections during the time of the Assad clan were referendums with only one candidate.

No one seriously believes that the embattled Assad and his regime would give up power so easily to a ballot after fighting tooth and nail for three years and bringing the entire nation to the brink of annihilation to retain it. What is the reason for the elections then, if they will not change anything on the ground or in the political landscape? The answer is quite simply to send a strong message to the world, that the regime is still and will continue to be in power. It will boast that it has the support of millions of Syrians, both inside and outside the country, thereby discrediting and destroying the prevalent narrative of the opposition and their backers that the conflict in Syria is an overly simplistic "regime against its people" scenario. For the regime, just getting people to turn out in large numbers, especially outside Syria, is a huge victory in and of itself.

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