DAMASCUS: Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected for a fourth term as president of war-ravaged Syria, official results showed on Thursday (May 27), despite Western accusations the polls were “neither free nor fair”.
The controversial vote extending Assad’s stranglehold on power was the second since the start of a decade-long civil conflict that has killed more than 388,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure.
Bashar al-Assad government says the election on Wednesday shows Syria is functioning normally despite the decade-old conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million people – about half the population – from their homes.
The parliamentary speaker announced Thursday that Assad garnered 95.1 per cent of the votes cast, trouncing two virtually unknown challengers.
Standing against him were former state minister Abdallah Salloum Abdallah and Mahmud Merhi, a member of the so-called “tolerated opposition”, long dismissed by exiled opposition leaders as an extension of the regime.
On the eve of the election, the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was “neither free nor fair”, and Syria’s fragmented opposition has called it a “farce”.
Turkey, an Assad adversary, has also said the election was illegitimate.
But few doubted that Assad, a 55-year-old ophthalmologist by training, would be re-elected.
In the last multi-candidate poll in 2014, Assad won 88 per cent of the vote.
Huge election posters glorifying Assad had mushroomed across the two-thirds of the country under his control in the lead-up to Wednesday’s poll.
The election was held Wednesday in government-held areas, and state media showed long queues forming outside polling stations, which remained open five hours past the planned closing time.
More than 80 per cent of the population live in poverty, and the Syrian pound has plunged in value against the dollar, causing skyrocketing inflation.
Assad’s campaign slogan, “Hope through work”, evoked the colossal reconstruction needed to rebuild the country, requiring billions of dollars in funding.
Read the complete article at: CNA
Also read: Iran’s influence crumbling in Iraq as militias defy IRGC handlers