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Opposition vow to not contest Syria presidential elections

Opposition will not take part in controversial vote expected in July

 A leader of Syria's main opposition coalition said Wednesday that the bloc would not field a candidate in July presidential polls "under any circumstances."

"The coalition rejects holding elections when half of the population is displaced and millions are living in tents," Badr Jamous told Turkish news agency Anadolu. 

"Will President Bashar al-Assad present his electoral program in the Zaatari refugee camp or to the sectarian militias that support him, like Hezbollah?" Jamous asked, referring to the camp in next-door Jordan that currently hosts over 100,000 Syrian refugees.

The opposition's rejection of the planned vote, come as no surpise. Although Information Minister Omran Al Zohbi on Tuesday announced that presidential hopefuls would be able to submit their applications during the last 10 days of April, mass restrictions have been placed on the vote. 

“The door for candidacy will open in the last 10 days of this month,” state-run news agency SANA quoted Zohbi as saying in an interview with Al Manar, the channel of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, late on Monday.

“The overwhelming majority of Syrians are pressing and calling for President Bashar Assad to continue to lead the country as president of the republic,” he said. 

The elections “will be held on time... and we will not allow them to be delayed for any reason, whether security, military, political, internal or external,” he added. 

While a constitution adopted in 2012 for the first time opens the door for candidates to challenge President Bashar Assad in the election, a law passed by parliament this year requires candidates to have lived in Syria for the past 10 years. This restriction was widely seen to take aim at the exiled Western and Arab-backed opposition which has been embroiled in a three-year uprising against Assad's rule. 

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the bloody cvil war, which has sent millions of refugees scattering to neighbouring countries and made many more millions internally displaced. In fresh accusations levied at the Assad regime on Tuesday French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said Assad might end up to be "the sole survivor" of his policy of "mass crimes." 

UN-brokered peace talks have thus far failed to make headway, with UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi last month publicly slamming the elections for endangering peace talks. 

In his Tuesday address, however, Zohbi denied there was any contradiction between staging the vote and efforts to hold peace talks. 

“The presidential election does not contradict the contents of the Geneva statement,” Zohbi said, referring to a document produced after a first round of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva in 2012.

The document called for a political transition in Syria, but made no mention of the role of Assad, who the opposition insists must step aside.

“Any talk of a conflict is political, resulting from a failure to read the document,” Zohbi added.

In the last president elections, held in 2007, Assad won by 97 percent of the vote.