Wednesday, May 30, 2007

97 percent

The billboards changed overnight from campaign to congratulations. This one reads: "Congratulations; Congratulations; Oh, our country; To you, our Asad." Or, "To you, our lion." In Arabic, asad means lion.

Bashar Al-Asad won a second term – somehow three percent of voters disapproved – and the city was awash in more parades, fireworks and street parties, both planned spontaneous rallies and planned planned rallies. The president himself briefly appeared at one yesterday.

(Erring on the side of caution, the U.S. embassy evacuated yesterday afternoon because one of the marches was headed past its front doors. Nothing happened.)

If Syrians associate one thing with democracy it may be bad traffic. With all of the celebrations, most major traffic circles and downtown streets have closed.

On Saturday, a merchant in the old city told me the story of his brother-in-law, a physician, who was driving home from work, a distance of 8 kilometers. It took him four hours.

"We hope that after tomorrow, this will all return to normal," he said, never mentioning the presidential referendum. "Inshallah," I replied. God willing.

He's still waiting. Word spread of more official celebrations today.