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Assad will face two “rivals” in the May vote

Assad will face two “rivals” in the May vote

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Damascus: A former Syrian minister and a member of the opposition from Damascus will face Bashar al-Assad in this month’s presidential election, the Constitutional Court said on Monday.

Assad’s body approved only three of the 51 applications to run in the May 26 ballot, including the 55-year-old president himself, who is expected to win a fourth term.

The president of the court said in a press conference broadcast on state TV that Minister of State Abdullah Saleem Abdullah has been approved for the post of president from 2016 to 2020. The third candidate, Mahmoud Mari, a member of the so-called “tolerant opposition”, was described by longtime exiled opposition leaders as an extension of the government. The president of the court said without elaborating that the other 48 petitions were rejected for “failure to meet constitutional and legal requirements”. They have until May 7 to appeal.

Applicants need the support of at least 35 members of parliament, each of whom is only allowed to support one candidate. Deported opposition members are rejected by electoral law, which requires candidates to stay in Syria continuously for at least the past decade. The election will be the second since the start of a decade-long conflict that has killed more than 388,000 people and forced more than half of Syria’s population to flee their homes.