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(Some) Syrians head to the polls as violence spreads

Muzaffar Salman / AP

A man inks his finger after voting in Damascus, Syria, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011. Syria's state media has reported that voting started in scheduled municipal elections, but witnesses say turnout was low.

Syrians were voting in local elections Monday as battles between troops and army defectors spread a day after fierce battles in the country's south.

According to reports, the turnout was expected to be low as many voters feared violence. Al-Jazeera reported that six people were killed in protests, according to the Syrian Revolution General Commission.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported new clashes in the northwestern region of Idlib. It said fighting also continued for a second day in the southern province of Daraa.

Sunday's fighting between army defectors and government troops was one of the biggest clashes in Syria's nine-month uprising. A strike also shut businesses in a new gesture of civil disobedience.

Al-Jazeera reported that nearly 43,000 candidates were running for seats in Syria's 1,337 administration units.

The elections were being held in response to the protests and are part of a series of reforms the regime is putting in place, authorities said according to the BBC.

"The new election law contains the necessary guarantees for a democratic, transparent and honest election," Khalaf al-Ezzawi, head of Syria's election committee, the BBC reported.

The opposition does not consider the vote a legitimate concession by the regime because it coincides with a deadly crackdown.

The United Nations says more than 4,000 Syrians have been killed since March. President Bashar al-Assad says the number of dead is far lower and most of them have been from the state security forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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