Some express their loyalty in general displays of patriotism, while others explicitly call on the 48-year-old president to announce he will stand in the vote, which is due to be held by July.
Just 18 months ago, Assad’s grip over his capital seemed to be slipping as rebels gained ground around Damascus. Since then his forces have consolidated control in central Syria. Rebels still insist his departure is precondition for any peace deal, but having lost military momentum they are unable to dictate terms.
At a gathering in southern Damascus last month to honor victims of Syria’s conflict, local officials and clerics turned the solemn memorial into a political rally.