UPDATE 2030 GMT: Opposition activists are claiming that the regime is inflating the turnout by allowing any Syrian, anywhere in the world, to send in a vote by mobile phone:
— Majd Arar (@MajdArar) June 3, 2014
UPDATE 1550 GMT: Russian monitors are hailed by a crowd at a polling station:
UPDATE 1300 GMT: Activists claim that Kurdish officials confiscated ballot boxes in areas such as Qamishli in northeast Syria, and claim the boxes were “pre-filled” with votes for President Assad:
Qamişlo: worth mentioning that the ballot boxes confiscated by Asayish forces were prefilled …
— aras xani (@Xaniaras) June 3, 2014
UPDATE 1200 GMT: Al Jazeera America’s Nick Schriffin reports on an unusual — and appropriate — way to vote in what the opposition has called “Syria’s blood election”:
"At Damascus polling station cup filled w pins supplied by government for those who chose to prick their fingers and vote in blood” #Syria
— Nick Schifrin (@nickschifrin) June 3, 2014
UPDATE 1000 GMT: President Assad, accompanied by wife Asma, votes:
The Assad regime holds Syria’s first multi-candidate Presidential election on Tuesday.
President Assad faces two nominal challengers, businessman Hassan al-Nouri and MP Maher Najjar, but the regime’s overriding objective will be to proclaim a high turnout — in the areas where Syrians can vote — supporting its legitimacy.
State media features the call of Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi for participation: on a “historic day…the government is confident that citizens will swarm polling stations to drive home a message of unity and resolve to make the process a success”.
Assad’s office used Facebook to support the call and thank Syrians for “the civilized manifestations they have shown” during the campaign.
The vote will be watched by observers from nine countries, including Assad’s allies Russia and Iran. Activists from the US, Canada, Ireland, and other countries are also present — Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Jihad al-Laham welcomed the Americans with the message, “The Syrians’ fundamental problem lies in the US administration which never tires from making foolhardy mistakes and commits crimes against the nations of the region.”
Videos: Protesters Stage Their Own “Elections”
A novel election protest in Daraa Province in southern Syria, with youth dropping “ballots” into the remains of a barrel bomb:
“Voters” in Deir Ez Zor Province in eastern Syria cast ballots, with a shoe in President Assad’s face:
And an elaborate production featuring a polling station in a makeshift graveyard — goats, toilets for votes for President Assad and his father Hafez, cash rewards for the “right” ballots, and sudden detentions for the “wrong” ones:
Idlib Province: No Elections and No Love for Assad
The BBC reports from opposition-held Idlib Province in northwest Syria, where there will be no voting in the Presidential election — and no love for President Assad, from residents to the leader of the insurgent Islamic Front, Hassan Abboud:
Kafranbel: “Election is a Raping Scene Directed by Russia”
The residents of Kafrenbel in northwest Syria, known for their protest banners, issue their verdict on Tuesday’s Presidential election:
Head of Opposition Coalition Denounces Elections, Renews Call for US Support
The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, has used the Presidential election to renew his call for US support — including military aid — of the opposition.
Writing in The Washington Post, Jarba said, “Assad’s attempt to pretend — after bombing, starving and slaughtering his own people for more than three years — that he is holding a legally recognized election is intended to provide him and his tyrannical regime with a veneer of legitimacy, however false.”
The opposition leader then looked beyond the vote:
Together, we can turn the tide. If our key international supporters, particularly the United States, work quickly to step up assistance to our forces on the ground, it will level the playing field and put the moderates of Syria in a position to negotiate a lasting political solution to the conflict.
Turkey Lists Jabhat al-Nusra as Terrorist Organization
Turkey has listed the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist organization.
A Cabinet motion from November was updated to add Jabhat al-Nusra to the list of “organizations that are affiliated with al-Qaeda”.
Jabhat al-Nusra pledges allegiance to Al Qa’eda while emphasizing that it is working with the Syrian people and organizations in its fight against President Assad.
The group was listed as a terrorist organization by the US in December 2012. It is also listed by several other countries, including Britain and Australia.
Insurgents: No Targeting of Voting Centers on Tuesday
A statement by four leading insurgent factions has announced that voting centers will not be targeted on Tuesday:
We ask all our rebel brothers to adhere to this. We will not contribute to making things worse on our people by adding the shelling of the voting centers to the oppression of the regime against them by leading them to the election by force.
At the same time, the groups warned Syrians of the dangers of going to the centers. The Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham which has been fighting insurgents since January, has not declared the locations off-limits for attacks, and insurgents also claim the Assad regime may attack the polling stations and blame the incidents on the opposition.
The signatories to the statement are the Islamic Front, Jaish al-Mujahideen, Ajnad al-Sham, and Failaq al-Sham.
Video: 10 Killed by Regime’s Barrel Bomb in Sha’ar Section of Aleppo
Aftermath of Monday’s barrel-bombing near a mosque in the insurgent-held area of Sha’ar in Aleppo, with the collapse of a large building:
Claims are circulating on social media that insurgent rocket fire killed 50 people over the weekend in regime-controlled sections of Syria’s largest city.