Unrest-stricken Syria kicked off a parliamentary election on Monday, with 7,195 candidates from 12 political parties vying for 250 seats.
The election was the first under the new constitution, which ended the monopoly on power of President Bashar al-Assad's Baath Party and allows a multi-party system.
More than 12,000 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) across the country. Syrian authorities said over 14 million people out of the country's 23 million population were eligible to vote.
Khalaf al-Azawi, chairman of the higher committee of the elections, said the vote would be held in a climate of "freedom, democracy and transparency" and would be under the supervision of an independent judicial committee.
On the eve of the election, Syrian Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Sha'ar urged Syrian voters to "exercise their electoral right" by choosing the most qualified candidates.
However, some opposition parties inside Syria, including the National Coordination Body, have announced they would stay away from the elections.
Some candidates had to quit after receiving threats from armed groups, and several others were kidnapped in Idlib a month ago, according to observers.
In March, Assad issued a decree to hold the country's parliamentary election on May 7. The current parliament's term expired in March 2011 but has been extended in accordance with the country's new constitution.