Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Bashar Al-Assad’s former deputy prime minster Qadri Jamil said that presidential elections due to return the embattled president to power “will not change the status quo” of the Syrian crisis.
“The present circumstances in Syria are unfavorable for holding pluralistic, presidential elections,” Jamil said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.
Jamil is head of Syria’s Popular Front for Change and Liberation—an umbrella group comprising of 16 domestic Syrian opposition parties. The Front announced that it will boycott the June 3 presidential elections, citing the “unfavorable circumstances” in the country—a reference to the more than three-year conflict that has resulted in vast territories of Syria falling outside of government control.
Jamil was sacked from his post as deputy prime minister in October 2013 by President Assad over his unauthorized contact with foreign—including US—diplomats abroad.The former Syrian official has been residing in Moscow since he was removed from office. It is unclear whether he is banned from returning to Syria.
“My opposition front does not have representatives in Western countries. I am its sole representative abroad and this is the reason why I am outside Syria,” Jamil said, adding he was still able to “coordinate” the movement from Moscow.
Jamil’s decision to boycott the elections has split the Popular Front for Change and Liberation. Ali Haidar, the leader of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, defected from the alliance earlier this year over the issue.
He disagrees with Haidar on the presidential elections, which are certain return President Bashar Al-Assad to power.
“The timing [of the elections] is essential. Nothing is more important than the elections serving as a platform for a political solution in which as many Syrians as possible can participate,” Jamil said.
As for what he thinks about the presidential candidates competing against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Jamil told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Every Syrian has the right to nominate themselves if they meet the conditions.”
Left-wing presidential candidate Maher Hajjar was also formerly a member of Jamil’s Popular Front for Change and Liberation. He left the group in order to participate in the elections.
Despite his opposition to the presidential vote, Jamil disagrees with the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition on the political situation in Syria. “Our position is different from that of the opposition abroad, which rejects the elections because it does not recognize the Syrian regime and is seeking to topple it,” he said.
“No one has the right to interfere in Syria’s domestic affairs. That is why Western labels do not concern me,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, referring to critics of his pro-Moscow stance.
However, Jamil affirmed that he believes that “part of a central solution to the Syrian crisis lies abroad,” adding that the collapsed Geneva peace talks could still lead to a political breakthrough in the Syrian crisis.
“I think the Geneva talks have not failed yet. The first two rounds did fail,” he said, arguing that “the search for alternatives must continue in order to revive the political solution.”