As its citizens continue to be killed by their own military -- 34 were known to have perished today and 89 more yesterday -- the polls in Syria have opened today on a referendum that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until 2028, the AP reports. What human rights groups are decrying as a "sick joke" dressed up as democracy, the vote would amend the Syrian constitution to allow for an election in three months time. The results of the vote are expected to be announced on Monday, and if the measure is approved -- and there is precisely zero percent chance that it won't -- it would eliminate an article making Assad's Baath party the leader of state and society, in theory allowing for political pluralist and a presidential term limit of two, seven-year terms. But that won't be enforced retroactively, so Assad, who at age 46 has held office for 11 years, would be eligible for 14 more. Most dismiss the referendum as a sham, pointing out that the existing constitution, which guaranteed personal freedoms and outlawed torture, have been routinely ignored. The BBC reports that voting was "far from normal" in much of the country, with "explosions and shooting reported from the east, west, north and south -- in areas where violence has been going on for months." Speaking to the BBC, Hillary Clinton warned there was "every possibility" that the country could descend into civil war, but is treading very carefully in devising a method of interference: "I think that as you try to play out every possible scenario, there are a lot of bad ones that we are trying to assess."
Pictured: Assad and his wife Asma place their vote.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.