A man checks information of candidates at a polling station in Damascus, Syria, on May 7, 2012. Unrest-stricken Syria kicked off a parliamentary election on Monday, with 7,195 candidates from 12 political parties vying for 250 seats. (Xinhua/Jiang Tieying)
DAMASCUS, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Syrians across the country began voting on Monday to elect their representatives for the 250-seat parliament, the first in light of a new constitution, which was boycotted by the opposition at home.
Voting centers opened at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) amid low turnout in the early hours, owning to rising skepticism that the electoral process would be marred by a new cycle of violence.
There are 12,151 balloting booths across the country, and the number of eligible voters reached 14,788 million out of Syria's 24 million inhabitants. The results is scheduled to be announced on Tuesday, immediately afterwards, a new government is expected to be formed.
Photographs and banners for the runners have festooned all Syrian streets.
"I came here to cast my vote and choose the one who will represent me in the parliament in a transparent way without any pressures," Tima Ali, a journalist, told Xinhua.
Another voter, Shaima Mohammad, said the elections are being held with an atmosphere of democracy and transparency.
For her side, Maria Sa'ade, a candidate, told Xinhua that the elections are being held amid exceptional situation in the country, adding that the new parliamentarians would work to find suitable solutions to the year-long crisis.
According to state-run SANA news agency, the elections are supervised by an independent judicial committee and will be covered by more than 200 Arab and foreign media outlets, in addition to more than 100 intellectuals and lawmen from Arab and foreign countries to monitor the process.
The Baath party, led by President Bashar al-Assad, which had been the leader of the state and the society under the previous constitution, is running the elections under a list titled "the national unity" that combines the parties of the National Progressive Front, a cluster of nine small parties, instead of " the list of the national front."
A day earlier, Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said the Syrian people through its voting "is challenging the campaign of terrorism and aggression on Syria launched by regional and international powers," while, Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Sha'ar urged people to "exercise their electoral right" by choosing the most qualified candidates.
However, the parliament elections, the first harvest of the new constitution, which was designed to allow a multi-party system, were boycotted by some of the newly-licensed parties and other opposition parties inside Syria, including the National Coordination Body (NCB), and Building Syrian State party, and the National Kurdish Council.
Hassan Abdul-Azim, general coordinator of the NCB, told Xinhua that the elections can't take place amid the violence that has been raging on for nearly 14 months. "These elections have been designed by the security apparatus," he noted.
"More than seven provinces are roiling in violence and it's impossible to commence elections in the midst of the protracting chaos," he said.
Meanwhile, the activists' network, Local Coordination Committees (LCC), reported Khirbet al-Ghazala town in southern Daraa province, cradle of the year-long anti-government protests, observed Monday a general strike and boycott of the elections.
Besides, LCC said five were killed in eastern Deir al-Zour province and suburbs of the capital Damascus on the election day.
Local media have reported such incidents of people withdrawing candidacies after receiving threats from armed groups and several others kidnapped in Idlib province a month ago whose destinies are still unknown.
There were also reports saying that posters were seen on walls of mosques threatening "tomorrow (Monday) either strike or burning, " or, anyone opens his shop Monday and did not adhere to the planned strike, the shop will be torched.