Syria lawmaker becomes first presidential challenger

Syria lawmaker becomes first presidential challenger

A communist lawmaker has registered as the first challenger for the Syrian presidency in an upcoming election, the speaker of parliament says.

“We have received information from the higher constitutional court that member of parliament Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar has filed his candidacy for the post of president of the Syrian Arab Republic,” state television quoted Mohammad Lahham as saying on Wednesday.

Hajjar’s candidacy was announced two days after Lahham said Syria would hold a presidential election on June 3.

Hajjar was born in Aleppo in 1968 and has been a member of the Syrian Communist Party since 1984, the broadcaster said.

He “took part in the peaceful, popular movement at the start of the crisis,” it added, referring to Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that erupted in March 2011.

It will be the first presidential election organized by the government — previously a referendum was held on a single candidate but that system was replaced by an amendment to the constitution.

Election rules require candidates to have lived in Syria for the last decade.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 150,000 people and nearly half of Syria’s population has been displaced.

Violence continues to ravage many parts of the country, even reaching the heart of the capital, which has come under repeated mortar fire by opposition militants on its outskirts.

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