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Syria holds an election despite months of fighting

The election is the first multiparty poll since Syria's new constitution was adopted in February. But early voting appeared thin as the opposition refused to participate.

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Women vote at a polling station for a parliamentary election, in Damascus May 7. Syrians voted in a parliamentary election on Monday touted by authorities as a milestone of political reform but dismissed by the opposition as a facade while people are killed every day in an anti-government uprising.

Khaled al-Hariri/REUTERS

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Syrians headed to the polls Monday morning to vote for a new parliament in an election hailed by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad as the latest evidence of reform, but was overshadowed by unrelenting violence and dismissed by the opposition as a charade.

The parliamentary election is the first multiparty poll since a new constitution was adopted in February following a nationwide referendum which included a clause ending the political monopoly of the ruling Baath Party. But security concerns and an opposition boycott will dent the impact of the election and do little to end the violence which has left more than 10,000 Syrians dead over the past 14 months.

“These elections by themselves are not going to be very meaningful, but they are part of a willingness on the regime’s side to show some leniency that might, at the end, in a few months … be part of a political solution,” says Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut.

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria

The polls opened at 7 a.m. across Syria and Syria’s state-run television channels broadcast footage showing people ticking voting slips and placing them in ballot boxes.

In one Damascus polling station, 137 people voted in the first three hours, local authorities told the Reuters news agency. But a reporter at the scene only saw three people voting there during a 40-minute period.

Seven parties competing

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