by Rick Moran
While fighting still rages in many cities and towns across Syria, the government is going ahead with a sham vote for parliament despite the opposition declining to take part.
The authorities say they are fighting what they call foreign backed terrorists in Deir al-Zor and across the country who are bent on sabotaging what state media describe as a comprehensive reform program being led by Assad that is more advanced than in Western democracies.
The authorities are touting Monday's parliamentary election as a showcase of these reforms.
However, the opposition says it will change little in a rubberstamp assembly that has been chosen by the ruling Assad family, backed by the powerful secret police, for the past four decades.
The assembly currently does not have a single opposition member and official media said half the seats would be reserved to "representatives of workers and peasants", whose unions are controlled by Assad's Baath Party.
"Nothing has changed. Syria's political system remains utterly corrupt and election results will be again determined in advance," said opposition activist Bassam Ishaq, who unsuccessfully ran for parliament in 2003 and 2007.
"There are effectively very few seats for independents, and these will go to the highest bidder."
Interior Minister Mohammad Nidal al-Shaar toured the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, and declared Syria's commercial and industrial hub was ready for the vote.
"All resources should be made available to ensure the electoral process proceeds smoothly," Shaar, flanked by electoral officials, told state media.
Anti-government demonstrations have expanded in Aleppo after Assad's forces killed seven student protesters at Aleppo University last month. Witnesses say street demonstrations demanding his removal have been expanding across the country after the monitors' arrival.
At present, there are only 50 UN monitors out of the planned 300 that have been deployed. At this rate, it will be weeks or months before all 300 are in place. Meanwhile, Assad has made a shambles of the "peace agreement" by reneging on his promise to pull his heavy weapons out of towns and cities while refusing to allow journalists access to the country and humanitarian aid to reach those who need it.
But the UN continues to act as if the "peace plan" is still alive. They are handing Assad a propaganda victory by maintaining this fiction despite all evidence pointing to deliberate violations of the terms of the plan.
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