June 2, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9369

Russian Officialdom Hails Bashar Al-Assad’s Reelection, Russian Media More Skeptical

June 2, 2021
Russia, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 9369

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was reelected for a fourth term securing 95% of the vote and thus lengthening the Assad family's control of the Syrian presidency.[1] Unsurprisingly, official Russia heartily congratulated the victor. The Assads have been traditional Soviet-Russian allies and it was to secure the Assad regime that Russia militarily intervened in the Syrian civil war. The invitation of the Assad regime legitimizes Russia's military presence in Syria, a presence that has leveraged Russian power. If official Russia hailed Assad's victory as evidence of the popular support that he commanded, press commentary was a bit more nuanced. It pointed out the imperfections of the electoral process in Syria that disenfranchised numerous Syrian voters; it reminded the readers that Assad's "mandate" did not change anything on the ground in Syria and the problems remained. This meant that the Syrian powder keg could blow up at any moment. MEMRI's survey of reaction to Assad's "victory" follows below:  

Bashar Al-Assad waves at supporters following his declared victory (Source:

Officialdom, From Putin On Down Hails Assad's Victory

On May 28, 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that these elections were held in accordance with the constitution and the country's legislation, they served as an important step towards strengthening the country's internal stability.[2] The Federation Council's Deputy Speaker Konstantin Kosachev said that Bashar Al-Assad's presidential election victory attested to the popular support that Al-Assad enjoyed.[3]

Senator Alexey Pushkov viewed the Assad victory as a major defeat for the United States, and the Americans should therefore realize that their illegal presence in Syria was doomed: The United States, by and large, has already lost Syria. No matter how much they claim that the presidential elections held there this Wednesday are illegal, it will not change anything. Bashar Al-Assad received an overwhelming majority of votes, controls more than 70 percent of the country's territory and can laugh out loud at the dimwitted Obama, who hastened to publicly declare in March 2012 'that the days of Assad are numbered.' In fact, the term of the illegal stay of troops and American oil companies in Syria has been numbered. To date, the United States has only managed to grab onto Syria with two palsied fingers. They have no right to be present there – nor to extract oil. Therefore, it would be right for the United States to leave Syria after Afghanistan. But will the Biden administration do this?... After all, it is one thing to fail, and another to finally admit it.[4]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in congratulating Bashar al-Assad on his re-election to the presidency of Syria, noted that the results of the voting in the Syrian Arab Republic confirmed Assad's great political authority and civic confidence in the course steered by the authorities:

"The results of the voting fully confirmed your high political authority, the confidence of your fellow citizens in the policy of your leadership to speedily stabilize the situation in Syria and strengthen its state institutions."[5]

Viktor Bondarev: Elections In Syria Proved That Assad Commands Popular Support And Respect

Viktor Bondarev, Chairman of the Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee, credited Bashar al-Assad's victory in the Syrian presidential election attests to popular support and the legitimacy enjoyed by the current government.

Bondarev scoffed at comments by the "Anglo-Saxons" about the illegitimacy of Bashar al-Assad's presidency, its undemocratic nature, and its reliance on force to remain in power.

"There were also criticism from the very same American and pro-American media towards Russia, whose Aerospace Forces were engaged in a military campaign in Syria since September 30, 2015 in order to eliminate terrorist gangs and return the Arab republic to a peaceful life."

"Competent world statesmen and political leaders understood that such statements were unjust and approved or at least didn't condemn Russia's participation in the resolution of the Syrian domestic crisis and in the fight against terrorist organizations masquerading as opposition forces.

"The current elections have crossed all the t's. If Bashar al-Assad were as despotic as he was described by the propagandist American media, then the people wouldn't have re-elected him by such a total, indisputable majority of votes. The Syrian elections have the attention of the entire world community, so it is more difficult to falsify the results in Syria than in a country that enjoys American loyalty, American patronage or is of no interest to the overseas world gendarme," claimed Bondarev.

The results merely confirmed the first hand impressions of Bondarev and his fellow committee members upon their visits to Syria where they were convinced that "the re-elected President of the SAR has the respect and support of the people." [6]

Viktor Bondarev (Source:

Press Commentary: No Vote Of Confidence; Assad's Fate Will Be Decided By Other Factors And Primarily The Economy

Galiya Ibragimova surveyed the elections for RIA Novosti and pointed out the flaws in the election process and her informants believed that it would not be a game changer.

She pointed out that the Assads have been in power for fifty years and therefore the two opponents permitted to run had no chance.

"The authorities control key Syrian regions and organized 12,000 polling stations there.

Resistance to Assad remains: ""The south of the country is controlled by the government forces. However, provocations happened on election day as well. In Dara'a Governorate, posters were plastered on the walls with the inscriptions, "Syria without Assad", "Elections are an embarrassment to the country."

"Businessmen, cultural figures, and heads of tribes were signing petitions for boycotting the vote. Explosions were heard near the polling stations, but miraculously no one was hurt. Activists organized protest rallies in the cities of Tafas and Jasim.

There was also a commotion in the northeast of the country (where the Kurdish militants from the Syrian Democratic Forces are concentrated). The leaders of the group forbade its members to participate in the elections. Only the residents of Al-Hasakah and Al-Qamishli were able to cast their votes. The election commission recognized the elections in these regions as partially valid.

"The northern Idlib Governorate, the cities of Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad are part of Turkey's and the anti-Assad groups' area of control. They refused to organize polling stations, calling the elections a farce.

"Syrian refugees were not allowed to vote either in Turkey (in which more than 6.5 million SAR citizens reside) nor in Europe…

"The polling stations were open in Lebanon, but not all local Syrians have been able to vote. Only those who were registered at the embassy or received official refugee status were allowed to cast their votes. Such people constitute a minority in Lebanese cities."

The journalist interviewed to Middle East experts who concurred that the elections had effectively changed nothing. Kirill Semyenov noted that "The election contradicts the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on full constitutional reform and the creation of a transitional authority." Additionally, rival foreign powers remain the major arbiters of Syria's future.

"Syria's [population] is still split into opponents and supporters of Assad. The US and Turkey still control part of the country's territory. Russia and Iran's influence is also great in Syria. All these external players will intervene in the processes happening in the country to the same extent as Assad will."

RIAC [Russian International Affairs Council] Middle East expert, Ruslan Mammadov, believes that the West despite its refusal to recognize the election results will have to deal with Assad.

"The security of the European Union directly depends on the situation in Syria. If there would be another escalation in the country, Germany, Britain, and Greece will be flooded with refugees again. So far, only Assad was able improve the situation, and Brussels has to reckon with this."

Both Semyenov and Mammadov believe that the economic situation will determine the future of Assad's next seven-year term. "If people have no income, then protests and force majeure could happen even in loyal pro-government governorates.[7]

Dmitry Drize: 'This Powder Keg Can Explode At Any Moment'

Kommersant's Dmitry Drize  dismissed the elections as a non-event: "The incumbent president won 95.1% of the votes. The turnout was about 79%. The 55-year-old Bashar Al-Assad was elected for another seven-year term. He has been ruling the country for "just"21 years. During this time, there were numerous coup attempts. However, one must keep in mind that before that, his father, Hafez al-Assad ruled the country for 29 years.

"However, it's probably not proper to call Bashar president of Syria per se, because the country is divided into so-called de-escalation zones. Foreign troops are present on its territory. Assad controls the "oasis" and its capital - Damascus.

"The EU stated that it doesn't consider the election to be legitimate. Russia, to the contrary, called it, 'an important step towards stability,' and a victory of the incumbent leader that will further help resolve a difficult situation,' while Western allegations of illegitimacy of the election were called, 'a manifestation of brutal political pressure.'

"An opinion exists that the East is a delicate matter, and no real Western-style democracy is possible there.

"Assad, of course is not perfect in this regard. He deals with his opponents brutally, and even, (as the West believes), uses chemical weapons. However, generally, he is not a bad guy, primarily because he is a secular ruler, which makes the Damascus regime acceptable (from our, European point of view). Of course, it is important to ask what [Assad's regime] is being compared to. If one were to compare it with ISIS or similar medieval barbarians, then there can be no doubt [that Assad is preferable].

"There is an unspoken opinion that Assad remains in power solely due to Russian support.

"Our troops have officially withdrawn from Syria at least twice already, but nevertheless they remain there. It seems that this situation will endure if not forever, then for a long time. Still, it is universally believed that Russia saved this regime from complete collapse, and also saved the lives of many secular civilians…

"Some will ask, 'What did Moscow get out of this', and can Bashar al-Assad be considered our ally?' But the Syrian issue has long dropped into second (or even third) place on the Russian information agenda. There is no big war and thank God for that. There are clashes of course, but this has become commonplace…

However, one cannot escape the feeling that this powder keg may explode at any moment. That is the main fear. But so far it seems that the situation in Syria is more or less quiet. [Thus] the opportunity arises for Bashar al-Assad to be elected for a fourth seven-year term."[8]

International Affairs Expert Lukyanov 'One Shouldn't Take The Elections Seriously'

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs was dismissive of the elections and the Western condemnation that followed them:

"Practically speaking, the non-recognition of the Syrian election results in the West means nothing. These elections neither increase nor decrease Bashar al-Assad's legitimacy. They had to be held formally in order to substantiate his next presidential term. And so it happened. The further events in the republic will develop regardless of these procedures."

According to Lukyanov, "one shouldn't take the election results seriously…[besides] "the election result was expected, and this situation doesn't  change anything for Russian interests in Syria either."

"Syria is in a state of protracted civil conflict (if not civil war). Therefore, a democratic election in this situation is hardly optimal"[9]

Fyodor Lukyanov (


[1], May 28, 2021.

[2], May 28, 2021.

[3], May 28, 2021.

[4], May 30, 2021.

[5], May 28, 2021.

[6], May 28, 2021.

[7], May 28, 2021.

[8], May 30, 2021.

[9], May 28, 2021.

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