A former Syrian minister and a member of the opposition will face Bashar al-Assad in this month’s presidential election, the Constitutional Court said on Monday.

The body appointed by Assad approved just three of 51 candidates in the May 26 poll, including the 55-year-old president himself, who is expected to win a fourth term.

The president of the court said in a press conference broadcast on state television that Abdallah Salloum Abdallah, minister of state from 2016 to 2020, had been approved to run for president.

The third candidate was named Mahmoud Marei, a member of the so-called “tolerated opposition” long described by exiled opposition leaders as an extension of the regime.

The other 48 requests were rejected for “non-compliance with constitutional and legal requirements,” said the president of the court without giving further details.

They have until May 7 to appeal.

Candidates had to secure the support of at least 35 MPs, each of whom was allowed to support only one candidate.

Exiled opposition members are de facto excluded by an electoral law which stipulates that candidates must have lived in Syria continuously for at least the past decade.

The election will be the second since the start of a decade-long conflict that has killed more than 3.88,000 people and forced more than half of the pre-war Syrian population from their homes.

Damascus invited lawmakers from allied countries such as Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela and Cuba to observe the electoral process.

West rejects the ‘result’

Western members of the UNSC, led by the United States, France and Great Britain, rejected in advance the result of the May 26 poll, a position denounced by Russia as “unacceptable”.

Mr. Assad, who has already been in power for 21 years, was elected by referendum in 2000 and 2007.

For the first multi-candidate ballot in 2014, only two candidates in addition to Mr. Assad, out of 24 candidates, were allowed to stand.

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