Syrian Presidential Hopeful Hajjar Denies Anti-Christian Remarks

© RIA Novosti. Andrey Stenin
MOSCOW, May 30 (RIA Novosti) – Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, a Syrian lawmaker who is set to challenge the country’s long-term leader Bashar Assad in the country’s upcoming presidential election, has denied ever making anti-Christian remarks on social networks in an interview with the Rossiya Segodnya news agency.

“Every day they register fake social media accounts posting threats to various confessions in my name. International and Arab media cite these ‘sources,’ showing a total lack of professionalism. But I’m telling you officially, I’m not registered with a single social network,” Hajjar told Rossiya Segodnya.

This comment came after Arab media quoted Hajjar as allegedly saying that Christians in Syria had played only a minor role in the country’s history and should therefore be denied representation in the Syrian government.

In a radio interview with Rossiya Segodnya, the Syrian presidential contender accused the West of hijacking the Arab Spring movement, which he said started as a genuine anti-government protest.

When speaking about his presidential agenda, Hajjar said Syria had “significant potential to cooperate with BRICS member states, especially with Russia and China.” He added he wanted Syria to play a bigger role on the global arena and in the Arab world, in particular.

“Syria will fight against the tyranny of a single country in our region. Syria is vying for a democratic society, and it’s solely up to the people to govern it,” the presidential hopeful said.

Three candidates are running for the presidency in Syria, including incumbent President Bashar Assad, who has been in power since 2000. Other candidates are Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, 43, an ex-Communist Party activist and member of parliament; and Hassan Abdullah Nouri, 54, a Damascus native and former lawmaker, who previously headed Syria’s Chamber of Industry.

The vote in the country comes as the Syrian parliament approved in March a new election law, which for the first time in the history of the country would allow several candidates to participate in the vote.

The Syrian parliament is composed of 250 lawmakers, who can only back one candidate each. The law prohibits candidates to have dual citizenship and stipulates that a Syrian presidential contender must be under 40 years old.

Assad was re-elected to his second term in a nationwide referendum in 2007, in which he garnered 97.62 percent of the votes.