DAMASCUS, May 15 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian people will see new faces running for the presidency in the first multi-candidate poll in Syria's modern history.
In the capital Damascus, giant posters and banners of three final presidential candidates decorated the main streets, with incumbent President Bashar al-Assad predictably receiving the lion's share of the publicity.
The campaign for the presidential elections officially kicked off on Sunday, marking the first time in the 40-year rule of the Assad family that Syrians are able to witness campaigns for other candidates other than Assad for the presidency. The multi-candidate poll is a result of the recent 2012 constitution that puts an end to Syria's one candidate referendums.
Posters of Assad are now seen along with the posters of Maher Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri -- both served as lawmakers in the parliament -- in the main streets of Damascus and reportedly in other Syrian government-controlled areas.
For Syrians, watching the posters of their old time leader along with other publicly-unknown candidates, although weird, is a sign of new democracy.
"The multi-candidate election is a perfect process and it's the top of democracy and this multi-candidate poll should have taken place before," Mahmoud Teriay, a shoe shop owner, told Xinhua.
Assad, who won the last election in which he was the sole candidate, is campaigning under the slogan "Sawa," or "together" in Arabic. The Facebook page for the campaign has already garnered more than 120,000 followers since it was created Saturday.
Nouri, a former minister under Assad, has focused his campaign on countering corruption and enhancing economic growth, while Hajjar, a Syrian parliamentarian, underscored "the free will of the people" and enhancing the living condition and wages of the people in his campaign. Both are not widely known by the public.
"These elections mark the first time we see other candidates running for the presidency with President Bashar al-Assad. I think these elections are manifestation of modern democracy in Syria. I encourage every person to vote for whomever he sees suitable for the post," Ayman Nashat, a photographer, told Xinhua.
"The multi-candidate elections reflect the new democracy in Syria, but sure our voice will be given to one person that is protecting our country and giving us freedom and security and I hope that president Assad wins the elections," said high school student Nour Sha'ar.
Although the exiled Syrian opposition groups have boycotted the vote and dismissed it as a "farce," politicians inside Syria have seen the presidential elections as a "positive step."
Maher Murhej, the head of the Youth Party, told Xinhua that the elections have given hope to the recently-formed political parties in Syria that they can prepare a candidate to run for the presidency. ( "The Syrian people are not going back, and these elections are going to stick in their minds," he said.
Omar Ossi, a Syrian lawmaker who also hailed the new multi-candidate elections.
"This experience is the most important event in Syria's contemporary history and would be met with seriousness by the Syrian people who will choose the next president," he said.