This is what the Syrian election looks like in Lebanon


Thousands of Syrain nationals living in Lebanon arrive outside the Syrian Embassy in Yarze east of Beirut on May 28 before voting in the upcoming presidential elections in Syria. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

While it's tempting to casually dismiss the upcoming Syrian election as a pointless exercise in legitimizing Bashar al-Assad's rule, the scenes today in Lebanon are a clear reminder that a lot of people feel very strongly about it.

Photographs taken near the Syrian Embassy in Yarze show huge crowds on the street, desperately trying to get to the embassy to vote ahead of the June 3 election. The Post's Liz Sly was at the scene, and described it as "forceful affirmation" of Assad's grip on power.


Syrian nationals living in Lebanon gesture as they arrive outside the Syrian Embassy in Yarze east of Beirut on May 28 before voting in the upcoming presidential elections. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Many of those in the crowd appear to be supporters of Assad, carrying banners that show the Syrian president's visage. Some in the crowd were chanting, "With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Bashar," Sly reports.


A Syrian expatriate living in Lebanon casts his ballot, for current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in his country's presidential elections at the Syrian Embassy in Yarze east of Beirut on May 28. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

It's a clear show of strength for the Syrian regime, which has spent the past three years locked in a bloody civil war that led to widespread international condemnation.


A fireman sprays water on Syrian expatriates living in Lebanon to keep them cool, as they arrive to cast their ballots in their country's presidential elections, outside the Syrian Embassy in Yarze east of Beirut on May 28. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Syrian people will say their word in these elections, and their word is the one that counts," Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, Monday said. "Not Obama’s word, Cameron’s or Hollande’s.”


Lebanese Red Cross workers help Syrians who fainted while on their way to the Syrian Embassy to vote in the presidential election in Yarze, east of Beirut, Lebanon, on May 28. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

With the huge crowds and soaring temperatures on Wednesday, many Syrians suffered in their bid to vote. Photographs from Yarze show some who fainted, and Lebanese firemen hosed down the crowd with water in a bid to keep them cool. The Associated Press also reports that clashes took place by the embassy, with soldiers hitting voters with batons as they tried to push their way into the compound.


Syrian men cast their ballots in the Syrian presidential elections at a polling station set up in the Syrian embassy in the town of Yarzeh, east Beirut, Lebanon. (Nabil Mounzer/EPA)

There are at least 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a small state which has long been dominated by its larger northern neighbor, and many other expats have lived there for years.


Syrians who live in Lebanon chant slogans and carry portraits of President Bashar Assad and their national flags as they drive towards to the Syrian Embassy to vote in the presidential election in Yarze, east of Beirut. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Inside Syria, the civil war will likely make it impossible for many to vote. More than 9 million people have been displaced in the country, and few people in rebel-held areas are expected to vote. While there are two candidates on the ballot other than Assad, most opposition leaders were stopped from running by new election rules, and the two viable candidates are not well-known.


A Syrian man shows the photo of Syrian President al-Bashar Assad on the ballot paper as he prepares to vote in the Syrian presidential elections at a polling station set up in the Syrian Embassy in   Yarzeh. (Nabil  Mounzer/EPA)

“With vast parts of Syria completely destroyed by Assad’s air-force, army and militias over the last three years, and with a third of Syria’s population displaced internally or in refugee camps in the region, there is no electorate in Syria in a condition to exercise its right to vote,” the main Syrian Opposition Coalition said in a statement last month.


Syrians waving flags drive to the Syrian Embassy in Yarzeh to cast their vote. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian's also voted today at other embassies around the world. In Lebanon, they may get more time: The embassy announced late Wednesday that they would extend the vote for another day due to the crowds.


A fireman sprays water on Syrian expatriates living in Lebanon to keep them cool as they arrive to cast their ballots outside the Syrian Embassy in Yarzeh.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

While the result looks like a success for Assad, dark rumors swirled that those who didn't vote wouldn't be allowed to return home. “Everyone knows that if you don’t vote, you can’t go home,” one refugee from Damascus explained to Sly.

Read Liz Sly's report from the scene here.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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