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Syrians vote for new parliament amid coronavirus, economic woes

The parliamentary elections in Syria kicked off on Sunday, the third elections of its kind during the more than nine-year-long war, as the country's epidemic situation and the economy both continue to deteriorate. 

A total of 7,277 polling stations opened across the government-controlled areas on Sunday as voters are having the chance to vote for the 1,656 candidates for the 250-seat parliament. Both the president and his wife were seen wearing masks and casting their ballots at a polling center in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.

The Syrian government now controls around 70 percent of the Syrian territory while ultra-radical rebels control the Idlib Province in northwestern Syria and the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control areas in northeastern Syria.

The elections, originally scheduled for April 13, were postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. All polling stations have adopted protection measures and restrictions as required to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

The Syria crisis has been lasting for over nine years. Due to many factors including the war, the epidemic and external sanctions, the economy of the country has been in freefall over the past few months with the pound losing value, making the price of basic commodities now un-affordable to many Syrians.

"We have a lot of problems due to the war and our living conditions are very hard in addition to very pressing health conditions now. So we demand better living conditions and this is what Syrians really care about," said Imad Sarhan, a voter.

"The timing for the elections is important. Tough and unilateral sanctions are imposed on Syria by some countries, but Syria has never succumbed to them. The elections are held on time and this is a constitutional right that reflects what Syrians want," said Imad Sara, Information Minister of Syria.

In accordance with the Syrian Constitution, the parliamentary elections are held every four years, with the last held on April 13, 2020 when the Arab Socialist Baʽath Party won most votes.

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