Syrian President Bashar al-Assad secured a fourth term in the war-torn region on Thursday, reported state-run news agency Sana, citing official results. The elections were held on Wednesday.
A decade-long conflict has devastated Syria as it began after the Assad-led government used deadly force against peaceful pro-democracy protestors in March 2011. The clashes have killed at least 3,88,000 and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes, according to the BBC.
“Dr Bashar al-Assad gained 1,35,40,860 votes with 95.1% out of the total correct votes,” Speaker Hammoud Sabbagh said during a press conference. He said that out of a total of 1,81,07,109 who were part of the electorate, as many as 1,42,39,140 cast their votes, according to the Syrian news agency.
Assad’s contender Mahmoud Marei garnered 4,70,276 votes while Abdallah Salloum Abdallah secured 2,13,968 of them, Sana reported.
“Upon that, and according to article 86 of the constitution and item /B/ of article 79 of the general election law, and in light of the fact that Mr Bashar al-Assad gained the majority of votes with 95.1%, I have the pleasure to announce the winning of Dr Bashar al-Assad with the post of president of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Speaker said.
A huge protest against the election was seen in Idlib province, an area controlled by rebels and the country’s exiled Opposition called the polls a farce. Thousands of Syrians protested in the city of Latakia and in Umayyad Square in the capital Damascus, reported AFP.
But celebrations erupted in Aleppo and in Sweida in south Syria where citizens assembled outside the city hall.
Yahya al-Aridi, spokesperson for the Syrian Negotiation Commission, said that the election displayed “contempt to the Syrian people”. “It’s a decision by the government, aided by Russia and Iran, to kill the political process,” he told the BBC. “It’s a continuation of tyranny.”
The international community also denounced the election. The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States put out a joint statement, saying that the polls were “neither free nor fair” as they were held without the United Nations’ supervision.
“We support the voices of all Syrians, including civil society organisations and the Syrian opposition, who have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate,” the joint statement added.
The United Nation’s envoy in Syria, Geir Pedersen, said the polls were not conducted under the political transition called for by the world body’s Security Council resolution. “What is required is a Syrian-led and-owned political solution, facilitated by the United Nations and backed by constructive international diplomacy,” he told AFP.
Assad was first elected through a referendum in 2000 after his father, Hafez al-Assad died. The re-elected president’s campaign slogan “hope through work” was a promise to reconstruct the country.