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Syrians vote in parliamentary elections

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 13 (UPI) — Polling stations opened Wednesday in the government-controlled areas of Syria to elect a new Parliament in the war-torn country.

Some 3,500 candidates are running for all 250 parliamentary seats for Syria’s legislative authority, the People’s Council. Observers expect the ruling Baath party to maintain its majority when the results are declared early next week.

Opposition parties and Western leaders have branded the elections a sham and a threat to peace talks taking place in Geneva. These are aimed at forming a new government and bringing an end to Syria’s five-year long civil war.

Thousands of candidates have pulled out of the elections in protest that polling is taking place, and the United States has said it will not recognize the results.

Syria votes every four years, making this the second time elections have taken place since fighting began in 2011.

Streets in Damascus have been bedecked with candidates’ posters, encouraging people to vote.

For some citizens, the elections offer hope of a brighter future. And despite the war, jobs are very much high on the agenda.

At Damascus University, students from various Syrian cities, including rebel-held areas, waited in long lines to vote from early in the morning.

“After five years of war, we must participate and vote to rebuild Syria because Syria needs us, its youth,” Muhammad, a student from the northern province of Aleppo told China’s state-run news agency Xinhua. “We must all join in, not just stand and watch from a distance.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations-led peace talks in Geneva resumed on Wednesday with U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, meeting with opposition leaders and officials from the United States and western governments.

Six weeks after a cease-fire was declared in Syria, violence has been increasing, particularly in and around Aleppo.

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