13 Dec 2011

Municipal elections in Syria

10:11 am on 13 December 2011

Syria is holding municipal elections, despite escalating violence between security forces and anti-government protesters.

The government says the elections are part of reforms it's introducing in response to the protests.

But the opposition has called for a boycott.

The state news agency reports people are flocking to polling stations, but the BBC reports turnout is expected to be very low. Correspondents say many voters will not risk going to the polls.

Fighting is also reportedly continuing in the southern province of Deraa.

The UN estimates that more than 4000 people have died in the uprising, which began nine months ago.

Reports from Syria are difficult to verify as foreign journalists are unable to move around the country freely.

The opposition Syrian National Council says a general strike that began on Sunday was being widely observed in 12 provinces.