Local activists form a "Transitional Syrian Parliament"
See also Syria Feature: US Officials --- No Hope for Cease-fire So "Time To Consider a New Approach" br>
Bahrain Live Coverage: Detaining Activists --- The "Twitter Excuse" br>
Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Elections Amid the Protests
2046 GMT: Syria. It's too late to get accurate reports of casualties, but even at this late hour there are reports of gunfire, and many injuries, in both Aleppo and in Tafas, in Daraa province. This video, shared by the LCCS but posted by a Youtube account that we are not familiar with, reportedly shows the gunfire in Tafas tonight.
1943 GMT: Syria. Whether the elections were well-attended or not (see previous update) or whether they are rigged or not, the head of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, doesn't believe that they should have taken place without the Syrian government taking the lead and abiding by the ceasefire:
"Only a comprehensive and inclusive political dialogue can lead to a genuine democratic future in Syria," Ban said through his spokesperson Martin Nesirky. "These elections are not taking place within that framework.
"Moreover, a democratic process cannot be successful while violence is still ongoing," he added.
1935 GMT: Syria. The polls in Syria are closed. So how was the turnout? Without independent media, it's hard to say. Thankfully, the folks over at Time Magazine have kept their eyes glued to Syrian State TV all day, and provide a must-read summary of the live coverage:
The Syrian regime's mouthpiece, Addounia TV, was having technical difficulties with its blanket coverage of the country's first multi-party elections on Monday. Two attempts to provide live broadcasts from its correspondent in the hardscrabble Syrian province of Al-Raqqa had failed. Still, the journalist Hussein Makki, decked out in a neat cream-colored jacket over a pale blue shirt, waited patiently to deliver his report from a near-empty polling booth in a local school.
"The news from Raqqa is very good, there have been crowds of people at the polling stations from this morning," he said when the feed went up. "It's clear Syria is heading toward democracy, and God willing, it will become an Arab model, an Arab dream." Makki then walked toward a middle-aged man standing near the pale gray ballot box, who had just voted. "What do you say to those who have asked people to stay away from polling booths?" the reporter asked, referring to the call for a boycott by the Syrian opposition, which has called the election a farce. "I think that every citizen should participate, it's a national duty," the voter said. "As for those who wanted to boycott, they have other agendas, but democracy will not be imported, we will make it here." The reporter then turned to one of the few other people in the room, a mustachioed man in a shiny gray suit. "We have proven to the world that Syria is fine," the man said, echoing a common government slogan. "We will forge the plan for our country."
1850 GMT: Syria. While violence may have seemed less intense in most places today, at least 31 people were killed by Assad forces, according to the activist network LCCS, "including 5 children, 2 women and 5 defected soldiers."
The deaths were also fairly widespread:
11 martyrs were reported in Homs, including 6 martyrs who died earlier and their corpses were found today,7 martyrs in Hama, 6 martyrs in Deir Ezzor, 2 martyrs in Idlib, 2 martyrs in Hasakeh, 2 martyrs in Damascus Suburbs (Tal), and 1 martyr in Daraa (Mataieh).
"Sammie," an activist whom reportedly lives in Homs, has this report:
There are also reports of heavy gunfire in parts of Daraa and in some suburbs of Damascus.
At least 12 people, almost all protesters, were killed last week in clashes near the Ministry of Defence. More than 300 demonstrators were arrested, and most remain in detention.
1625 GMT: Palestine. Israel's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Palestinian prisoners Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, who have been on hunger strike for 69 days in protest at their administrative detention (see 0640 GMT).
"The Supreme Court refused both appeals," Jamil Khatib said. "They will continue their strike till the end."
Khatib added, "Israeli courts do not handle administrative detention in a positive way. It shows that the intelligence services have the final word."
Under administrative detention, Palestinian prisoners can be held without charge indefinitely. Halahla was arrested on 28 June, while Diab was imprisoned on 17 August 2011.
Now, that mood has likely changed upon news that Islamic militants killed at least 32 Yemeni soldiers in a surprise attack:
The military official told Reuters that gunmen attacked Yemeni troops outside the city of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, killing at least 32 servicemen. He said they captured a number of soldiers and made off with weapons and ammunition.
At least 40 soldiers were wounded in the attack, the official and medical sources said. A spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked group that took Zinjibar last year, said his side captured 28 soldiers and a tank in the raid.
1546 GMT: Syria. It's too early to tell what the election turnout was (polls close at 1900 GMT) but many Syrian towns and cities have been a mixed scene. There have been very large protests, but there have also been widespread general strikes. So far the videos from activists have come in two varieties - either streets are empty of even normal traffic, or they are filled with protesters.
A protest in Ariha, in the Jabal Zawiyah region of Idlib province (see a map of Idlib):
A crowd, reportedly made up of Kurds and Arabs, in Kobani, Aleppo province. A second video shows a Kurdish flag, and many protesters dressed in Kurdish colors. As religious, ethnic, and regional parties are banned, there is not likely to be any Kurdish winners in today's elections:
A funeral procession for a martyr in Deir Ez Zor:
Fairly large protests were also held today in the Barzeh district of Damascus:
1513 GMT: Syria. There are fresh reports of violence in the Hasakeh governorate, in Homs, in Idlib, and in Qa'alat al Madiq, northwest of Hama. There are also a few sporadic and unconfirmed reports of gunfire in Damascus. While we don't have death tolls, or fully verified reports, it appears that election day in Syria has not been free of violence.
If true, that may put a damper on voter turnout.
1322 GMT: Syria. Elections are good, right? Joshua Landis looks at the details of the ballot in a single city and discovers that, just as the opposition predicted, "change" isn't all it's cracked up to be:
Al-Assad’s supposed reforms are the ruse that most thought they would be. The candidates from Latakia are sprinkled liberally with the names of well known crooks and Baathists of the region as well as their sons. There does not seem to be any potential reform going on in Latakia. The Baath may have been disestablished, but its members insist that they will win the upcoming elections to parliament.
Also, hundreds of candidates have already withdrawn their names from the ballot in protest. Also, there are many restrictions on the basis that parties could be formed, restrictions that will likely prevent the Kurdish minority from gaining any power:
The new constitution bars the formation of political parties on the basis of religious, tribal, regional, denominational, or profession-related basis. They also may not be a branch of or affiliated with any non-Syrian party or political organization, which effectively excludes the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood or Kurdish parties from trying to gain a political foothold in Syria.
So far, five of the newly-approved parties have promoted their electoral programs in state-owned newspapers with promises to reform outdated laws, protect the environment, curb unemployment and develop the country's sluggish economy.
So who's left on the ballot?
Currently, the ruling Baath party has 127 seats in the 250-member parliament, or about 51 percent.
So out of the many thousands of names on the ballot, the only recognizable names are established politicians. Many of the new names on the ballots are simply lesser-known regime loyalists and Baath party members, and the most established opposition parties are banned. Out of the 9 parties that have been created, only 7 parties have candidates on the parliamentary ballot, and 5 of those are considered pro-regime and have been promoted by regime media organizations.
Beyond this, the opposition has called for a boycott of the election, and even the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, has dismissed the election as "staged" and said, "the results have already been decided."
Other than all that, the prospects for successful elections are just not that great.
1254 GMT: Syria. Election day in Syria poses a logistical problem for the Assad regime. Months ago, during local elections, security on the streets was very high in order to prevent demonstrations or any disruption of the election process. On the other hand, on days such as this the security forces have added incentive to avoid firing at crowds in order to avoid any perception that Syria is anything less than a real democracy. If the past is any indicator, expect a lower death toll, and an overall less eventful day in Syria.
Which makes this next report peculiar. There are already reports of violence, and civilian deaths, in some Damascus suburbs today. According to the LCCS, snipers opened fire and killed at least 3 people in Dumayr, and there are widespread arrests reported in the city. Many other suburbs are reporting very high security, and even arrest campaigns, as security appears to be trying to head-off potential protests.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for taking us through since Friday.
The officials said Monday's pre-dawn assault was staged by militants by sea and land.
The attack appeared to be a response to a US drone attack on Sunday, which killed Fahd al-Quso, whom American officials said was a top official in Al Qa'eda on the Arabian Peninsula.
Al-Quso was on the FBI's Most Wanted List for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship in Saudi Arabia.
0910 GMT: Egypt. A march on Sunday, from the High Court to the Parliament, calling for the release of hundreds of protesters arrested last Friday, an investigation into the clashes outside the Ministry of Defence, and accountability by the military rulers for the violence:
0640 GMT: Palestine. The lawyer representing Palestinian prisoners Bilal Diab and Tha'er Halahlah, nearing the 70th day of their hunger strikes, said his clients were nearing death: "Their medical condition has gone from very bad to extremely worse."
Jamil al-Khatib accused an Israeli high court of delay in delivering a ruling on the status of the two men, "I believe what the court is doing here is trying to break the will of both prisoners so they will back down in their hunger strike."
Diab and Thaer are among 1,600 to 2,000 Palestinians on a mass hunger strike. The prisoners are held under administrative detention, under which they can be imprisoned indefinitely without charge.
0625 GMT: Syria. Voting is underway in Syria's first multi-party elections since the adoption in February by referendum of a new Constitution, with 7,195 candidates registered to stand for 250 seats.
The political parties, trends and powers and independent candidates are taking part in the elections with electoral rolls, alliances or independently under a judicial supervision that ensures fairness, freedom and democracy for the electorate in choosing their representatives.
The Syrians hope that the elections will chart the future of Syria as the ballot box will reveal the popular support for the candidates regardless of their political or party affiliations.
Others are not convinced. The opposition Syrian National Council has called the elections a "farce which can be added to the regime's masquerade".
The SNC has its own political issues to address, however. On Sunday, local activists set up an alternative to the Council with the Transitional Syrian Parliament, claiming it will lead the fight to bring down the Assad government (see video at top of entry).