Syrian President Bashar Assad has been re-elected in a landslide, officials said, capturing another seven-year term in the middle of a bloody 3-year-old uprising against his rule that has devastated the country.
Syria’s parliament speaker, Jihad Lahan, announced the final results on Wednesday from Tuesday’s election, saying Assad garnered 10,319,723 votes, or 88.7 per cent. Assad’s two challengers, Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, won 4.3 per cent and 3.2 percent respectively. The Supreme Constitutional Court put turnout at 73.42 percent.
Assad’s victory was always a foregone conclusion, despite the presence of other candidates on the ballot for the first time in decades. The opposition and its Western allies denounced the election as a farce, with US Secretary of State John Kerry calling it a “great big zero.”
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Damascus erupted into a thunderous, rolling clap of celebratory gunfire that appeared to include heavy weaponry after the results were announced. Thousands of Assad supporters flocked the streets to celebrate, some waving large Syrian flags and others carrying photos of Assad as car horns blared. Some men broke into the familiar pro-Assad chant: “With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Bashar!”
Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television aired live footage from the government stronghold of Latakia and the war-ravaged city of Homs, which the government recaptured last month, showing crowds of people celebrating with flags and posters of Assad amid cries of “God, Syria, Bashar!” Fireworks lit up the night sky in Latakia.
Voting was held only in government-controlled areas, excluding huge tracks of northern and eastern Syria that are in rebel hands. Tens of thousands of Syrians abroad voted last week, although many of the more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees across the region either abstained or were excluded by law.
The vote provided no respite from the war. As people filed to the polls in Damascus on Tuesday, the rumble of government shelling and airstrikes on rebellious suburbs provided an ominous backdrop and sobering reminder that not all Syrians were able to cast their ballots.