Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected in a landslide yesterday, capturing another seven-year term in the middle of a bloody three-year-old uprising against his rule that has devastated the country.
Syria’s parliament speaker, Jihad Lahan, announced the final results from Tuesday’s election, saying Assad garnered 10,319,723 votes, or 88.7%. Laham said Assad’s two challengers, Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, won 4.3% and 3.2% respectively. The Supreme Constitutional Court put turnout at 73.42%.
After the results were released, Damascus erupted into a thunderous rolling clap of celebratory gunfire that appeared to include heavy weaponry. On the streets of the capital, men cheered and whistled. Some broke into the familiar pro-Assad chant: “With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Bashar!”
Assad’s victory was always a foregone conclusion, despite the presence of other candidates on the ballot for the first time in decades. Voting was held only in government-controlled areas, excluding huge tracks of northern and eastern Syria that are in rebel hands. The opposition and its Western allies, including the United States, have denounced the election as a farce.
The win boosts Assad’s support base and provides further evidence that he has no intention of relinquishing power.
In previous presidential elections, Assad, and before him his father, Hafez Assad, were elected in single candidate referendums in which voters cast yes-no ballots.
The government has sought to present this vote as a democratic solution to Syria’s three-year conflict, although a win for Assad is certain to prolong the war.
Much of northern and eastern Syria is in rebel hands, and those in the armed opposition show no signs of relenting in their fight to oust Assad.
The war, which activists say has killed over 160,000, has left the international community deeply divided, with the US and its allies backing the revolt against Assad, who enjoys the support of Russia and Iran.
In Beirut, US Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticised the Syrian election, calling it “a great big zero”.
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