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Syrians vote in municipal polls as violent crackdown continues


Syrians go to the polls on Monday in municipal elections as security forces continue a deadly crackdown on protests that broke out in March. Some 42,889 candidates are contesting 7,588 seats with officials saying a low turnout is expected. 


The elections have been organised in line with a new election law designed to "reinforce the principle of decentralisation," according to one official.

As voting got underway a rights group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that army deserters were battling regular troops in two Idlib villages, with similar fighting underway in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the anti-regime protest movement.

The violence came as pro-democracy activists pushed a campaign of civil disobedience launched Sunday with a general strike across Syria designed to bring down the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The opposition Syrian National Council, SNC, said in a statement that the "dignity" general strike launched Sunday was widely observed in 12 provinces across Syria against "all expectations."

The SNC urged Syrian citizens from all walks of life as well as labour unions to pursue the strike, saying it was essential "for the success of the revolution and the establishment of a civilian democratic nation."

The general strike is part of a campaign of civil disobedience called by activists who have announced plans to shut down universities, public transport, the civil service and major highways.

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