Syrians in government-controlled areas are going to the polls today. There are three presidential candidates: Bashar al-Assad and two stooges. Free and fair the election isn’t. But the fact that Assad is still in a position to hold an election is remarkable. Three years ago he was the West’s latest Arab pariah, subject to a barrage of international condemnation as his security forces slaughtered unarmed protesters. Two years ago he was rapidly losing territory and military personnel to an armed opposition that seemed unstoppable. Less than a year ago he came within a hair’s breadth of foreign intervention following a chemical attack in a Damascus suburb. And yet he is not only still standing, but apparently getting stronger.