In 1982, Charles Krauthammer wrote in The New Republic about the Tirana Index, a scale that evaluated the attendance of ballot results concluding that the higher the vote a government receives in an election, the more tyrannical it is. It would seem to be still a reliable indicator given the latest confirmation, which occurred last Wednesday in the 2021 Syrian presidential elections. Authoritarian leader Bashar al-Assad, head of the Syrian government since 2000, obtained 95.1 percent of the votes. The result was confirmed by the President of the Syrian Parliament Hammoud Sabbagha and certifies the authoritarian spirit of the Damascus’ government. Elected for a new seven-year term, the Ba’ath Party’s leader consolidates more than ever his grip on a country tormented by a decade of civil war. Huge percentages are common in dictatorial countries.
Krauthammer argued that an elected system of government is tyrannical if the vote count is above ninety-five percent of the total number of eligible voters. A traditional autocracy ranges from eighty to ninety-five percent. There are two examples of the Tirana Index and the correlation between close-to-total scores and the tyrannical attitude of the government. Enver Hoxha, dictator of Albania from 1944 to 1985, won the elections with a staggering 1.627.959 votes to 1. And Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, who held power in Syria from 1971 to 2000, won re-election in 1978 with 99.6 percent. With a near uniformity of consensus, these governments testified to their authoritarian rule. During the Cold War, Soviet embassies confirmed that their political leaders in the USSR always won with ninety-nine percent. Western observers at the time were very dubious about these numbers and today too they do not recognize the 2021 Syrian elections.
Assad won a fourth mandate in a row and, thanks to the help of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Iran through the years, regained control of much of the country. Today’s Syria is a ravaged nation and in the second decade of the 2000s has gone through humanitarian crisis, institutional destabilization, Daesh’s infiltrations, the unresolved problem of the Kurds, the use of nervine gas against the rebels, and the collapse of the currency. Ninety percent of the Syrian population lives in poverty according to the UN, inflation is galloping, Lira’s depreciation is today historic. With an iron fist, Assad has managed to maintain control of a State. He has not been successfully dethroned like the other Mediterranean autocracies since 2011 at the beginning of the Arab Spring. He has not shared the fate of Libyan dictator Muʿammar Gaddafi, nor that of Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, or Tunisian Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
Assad, an Alawite of the Shiite sect, has silenced the Sunni rebels and ISIS. Not enough to prevent a huge exodus of Syrian civilians. Hundreds of thousands of them migrated to Europe. Many are crowded in Lebanon, and some have been stopped in Turkey. Just to give a semblance of democracy challenging Assad in the 2021 Syrian presidential elections were Abdullah Sallum Abdullah (who got 1.5 percent of the votes) and Mahmoud Ahmad Marei (3.3 percent). It is not surprising that in the Syrian chaos the elections have been judged as not free. Only the zones controlled by Damascus could participate in the vote. With a participation rate of 76.64 percent, 14.3 million people took part in the elections. As another Assad-led seven-year term begins, the Tirana Index remains a warning to the world that the Soviet-like standard of unanimous results in elections certifies the tyranny of the regime.
(Published on amedeogasparini.com)