Journalist Beritan Sarya confirms that the Kurdish-led administration’s upcoming municipal elections in North and East Syria on 11 June involve 5,331 candidates, highlighting significant participation and enthusiasm for the first ballots in decades.

The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is gearing up for critical municipal elections amid extensive reforms and enhanced participation by women, according to Rojava-based journalist Beritan Sarya, in an interview with Medya Haber TV on Sunday.

The elections, scheduled for 11 June, follow a process initiated by the creation of the High Election Commission after the approval of a Social Contract in December 2023. Sarya provided some background, detailing the groundwork for the elections, ranging from new administrative arrangements to the social contract and measures to ensure inclusively.

The journalist underlined that the election is essential for implementing new governance structures in the region, moving from regions and cantons to cantons and metropolitan areas, thereby increasing the number of municipalities from 122 to 192. Accordingly, local elections will be held at seven cantons including Jazira, Deir-ez-Zor, Raqqa, Euphrates, Manbij, Shahba, and Tabqa. However, not all municipalities are operational due to ongoing infrastructure development. Elections cannot be held in Afrin, Al-Bab, Jarabulus, Azaz, Girê Spi nor Serêkaniyê due to the occupation of Turkey.

There are two major alliances: the Peoples’ and Women’s Alliance for Freedom, comprising 22 parties including the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Future Syria Party, and the Together for Better Service Alliance, led by the Green Party with five-member parties. Three other parties are contesting independently. The election, therefore, reflects a substantial administrative overhaul in a dynamic regional political landscape.

Further detailing community engagement and broader implications, Sarya explained that women’s groups have proactively nominated candidates, reflecting the significant role of the recently ratified Social Contract that includes specific provisions for women’s rights. Moreover, amid these electoral preparations, a forum in al-Hasakah (Heseke) underscored a call from tribal leaders for national dialogue and decentralisation, reflecting a strong push towards a unified approach to Syria’s future governance.

Recent statements from both the Assad administration and the AANES signal moves toward a democratic process aimed at resolving the long-standing Syrian crisis. President Bashar al-Assad has openly expressed a willingness to engage in dialogue with the Kurdish-led administration, a sentiment shared at a tribe meeting organised by the AANES, symbolically extending a “hand of peace”. However, following the collapse of Turkish-Syrian rapprochement efforts, Turkey now seems determined to obstruct a democratic process, perceiving it as detrimental unless it dictates the terms.

Turkish Defence Minister Yaşar Güler recently overstepped his usual diplomatic boundaries by demanding that Assad accept a Turkey-backed opposition’s constitution draft and hold “free elections”. Furthermore, a prominent pro-government journalist has openly called for intervention to prevent the upcoming elections in AANES, arguing that they would pave the way for greater Kurdish autonomy—a prospect Turkey views as a direct threat to its national security.

roceed with considerable enthusiasm and participation, promising a robust turnout and potentially transformative outcomes for the region.Concluding her remarks, Sarya stated that despite a boycott by the Kurdish National Council (ENKS), which she dismissively noted lacks substantial local support and involvement in governance, the elections are set to p

The election regulations mentioned by Sarya have been translated by the Rovaja Information Centre (RIC). RIC is an independent news and research centre, established to provide accurate, well-sourced, transparent information from on the ground in North and East Syria.

The comprehensive legal framework entitled ‘Law of Democratic Municipalities and the Federation of Municipalities’, also known as Law No. 4, was enacted in response to the upcoming municipal elections. This document has also been translated by the RIC. The Law delineates the organisational structure, responsibilities and governance mechanisms of municipalities and federations within the region, aligning with the newly published Social Contract.

The law establishes municipalities as administrative units with a certain degree of financial and administrative autonomy. They are tasked with a broad range of responsibilities, from urban planning and infrastructure development to public health and community welfare. Key functions include managing water resources, maintaining public spaces, and regulating local markets and construction activities. Municipalities are also responsible for developing local cultural, sporting and social activities, thereby enhancing community life.

Each municipality is governed by a Municipal Council, elected directly by the residents for a two-year term. The council’s jurisdiction includes formulating local regulations, managing budgets, and coordinating with neighbourhood communities to address service issues. Importantly, the law mandates that municipalities work in a cooperative framework, forming federations at the canton and regional levels to ensure coherent governance and efficient resource allocation.

The Federation of Municipalities plays a crucial role in regional planning and budget distribution, facilitating collaborative projects and initiatives that span multiple municipalities. This federative structure is designed to foster a participatory approach to governance, with an emphasis on inclusivity and responsiveness to the needs of diverse communities within North and East Syria.

This legislative framework signifies a pivotal step in decentralising governance and empowering local administrations, reflecting AANES’s commitment to building a democratic, stable and inclusive society in line with the aspirations laid out in the Social Contract.