INFORMATION: Syrians began voting on Monday (9 November) to elect a new People's Council (parliament) for a four-year term.
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (VISNEWS - MARWAN MAKDESI)
GV ZOOM BACK FROM Banner in street TO traffic and people walking in Damascus streets
SV PAN Candidates pictures on wall PAN TO street scene (3 shots)
SV INTERIOR School cadets clapping hands and chanting
CU Candidate speaking at rally PAN TO other candidates clapping
SV School cadets singing
SV Other candidates clapping and singing
Background: INFORMATION: Syrians began voting on Monday (9 November) to elect a new People's Council (parliament) for a four-year term. Interior Ministry sources in Damascus said 45 candidates from the National Progressive Front (NPF), led by the ruling Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, had been returned unopposed. The council has 195 seats.
SYNOPSIS: The NPF also comprises the Socialist Unionists, Arab Socialists, the Socialist Union and the Communist Party. Syria is among the hard-line Arab states. It is a country with a multitude of political parties and has suffered from military and political conflicts. More than 15550 candidates are contesting seats. Ninety-nine of these are reserved for labourers' and peasants' representative from all over Syria. Voting was held during two days.
Candidates from all parties had canvassed extensively at schools and the accustomed rallies. The country is going through bad times. Political observers say its government feels isolated -- with a sense of facing Israel alone -- is spurned by the Arab world, and bogged down combatting Israeli-backed Christian forces in Lebanon. Despite all these worries, it's felt that President Hafez al-Assad has brought Syria its best phase of stability since independence. Analysts believe the main threat to President Assad's rule comes from internal conflict rather than the disputes with other Arab states and with Israel.
The focus for opposition to President Assad's government is the Islamic fundamentalist groups led by the outlawed Moslem Brotherhood, which has been active in Syria since the 1950s. Also on the religious right are the Shebab Mohaammed ("Mohammed's Chaps") and the Hisb al Tahrir reform movement.
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