May 6 - Syrians will head to polls, Monday, in an historic parliamentary election, but violence could overshadow the vote and critics question its legitimacy. Andrew Raven reports.
Signs plastered across downtown Damascus tout what Syria's government is calling an historic parliamentary election. Scheduled for Monday, it will be the country's first free vote in decades and comes more than a year into a bloody insurrection against president Bashar al-Assad. Authorities say the election is part of a reform process, but opposition activists call it a sham. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) OPPOSITION ACTIVIST LOUAY HUSSEIN, SAYING: "The parliament will not be legitimate and it will make the political situation more complicated, because all the opposition forces will not recognise it." One candidate, though, says the election could lead to real change. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE MARIA SAADEH, SAYING: "Today, after a year of crisis, people are aware that we are in need of a real parliament and a direct channel to deliver the people's will." The vote comes as fighting between rebel forces and government troops continues to rage in many parts of the country. Yesterday, violence flared in an oil rich province in eastern Syria and the UN says more than 9,000 people have died since the uprising began in March 2011. Andrew Raven, Reuters