Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a rare television interview on Wednesday, appearing on Russia's official Rossia-24 news channel to tout the success of the May 7 parliamentary elections.
The embattled Syrian leader said that the elections were a very important step, and indicate that the Syrian people are on his side and happy with his reforms.
“The polling stations show the opinion of the people. It is a serious message for everyone both inside the country and also beyond its borders,” he said. The elections show that the majority of Syrians support the regime.
Syrian Central Election Commission had previously said that the vote was fair and incident-free, however, members of the opposition boycotted the election outright and the United States said that the results border on ludicrous.
To call for boycotting the elections, that's the equivalent of calling for a boycott of the people, Assad said in response. And how can you boycott the people of whom you consider yourself the representative?
The interview was the Syrian president's first in nearly six months and the first since the initiation of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, the success of which is still up for debate as violence continues.
Like he has in previous interviews, Assad told an interviewer in English -- although the interview was overdubbed in Russian -- that violence in his country has been instigated by gangs, criminals and foreign terrorists, not the government, adding that a number of terrorists have been captured and will soon be revealed to the media.
The West only talks about violence, violence on the government side. There is not a word about the terrorists. We are still waiting, he said, according to Al Arabiya.
The Syrian people are not scared of the threats of terrorists who have tried to wreck the elections or even prevent us from holding them, he added.
Assad has eschewed the parts of Annan's peace plan that require the withdrawal of government troops, citing the activities of terrorists and the Free Syrian Army rebel group, which has fought back against regime forces. Instead, he is pushing for so-called reforms like the parliamentary elections and made references to the possibility of writing a new constitution during the interview, although he didn't give any details.