Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has won 88.7 percent of votes in a presidential election, securing a third term in office. The vote only took place in government-held areas and has been widely condemned as a farce.
Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court said 73.42 percent of 15.8 million eligible voters cast their ballots in Tuesday’s polls. The election was held only in government-held areas, excluding vast chunks of northern and eastern Syria that are under rebel control.
Many of those entitled to vote were unable to do so, having been displaced from home by the fighting.
UN agencies say more than 40 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.4 million has been displaced by the conflict. Some 2.8 million have fled to neighboring countries with more than 160,000 people killed in the 3-year-long civil war.
The election was described as a “sham” by nations that have thrown their weight behind the opposition Syrian National Coalition, which include France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US.
The vote marked the first time in half a century that Syrians have been offered a choice of candidates. Assad’s two challengers, Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, won 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.
Earlier, al-Assad’s office’s Facebook page said Syrians: “are proving day after day their belief in a culture of life, hope and defiance, in the face of a culture of death, terrorism and narrow-mindedness.”
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, celebratory shots fired by al-Assad supporters killed at least three people in Damascus after the results were announced.
“At least three people were killed and dozens more wounded as a result of celebratory gunfire shot by Assad supporters,” said the Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Beirut on Wednesday, sharply criticized the election saying it can’t be considered fair “because you can’t have an election where millions of your people don’t even have an ability to vote.”
“Nothing has changed from the day before the election and the day after. Nothing,” Kerry said, “The conflict is the same, the terror is the same, the killing is the same.”
The European Union also condemned the election, saying in a statement that “it cannot be considered as a genuinely democratic vote.”
hc/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)