State-controlled areas of Syria are voting in parliamentary elections, boycotted by the opposition.
The polls is seen as a sham by the West and taking place amid an upsurge in fighting, pushing the country’s fragile partial truce to breaking point.
Voters began turning up shortly after the stations opened at 7 a.m. Around 3,500 government-approved candidates are competing after more than 7,000 others dropped out.
With the outcome a foregone conclusion in favour of the Assad regime, the vote is seen as a sign of the President’s growing confidence in the civil war, buoyed by Russian and Iranian military support.
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The election is being held as UN-brokered indirect peace talks resume in Geneva. The first round made little progress with no sign of compromise over the thorniest issue, the fate of President Assad.
Members of the main opposition bloc want a transitional governing body for Syria that does not include Assad. But Damascus has ruled out any discussion of the presidency, calling it a red line.
Parliamentary elections in Syria are held every four years, and Damascus says the vote is constitutional and separate from the peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the five-year war.