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Bashar al-Assad officially submits election bid

Bashar al-Assad has formally submitted his nomination to seek a third term in office

Published: Updated:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has formally submitted his nomination to seek a third term in office in an election due to be held on June 3, the speaker of parliament said on Monday.

Speaker Jihad Laham made the announcement on state-run television on Monday.

Reading from a letter he said was submitted by Assad to the constitutional court, the speaker quoted Assad as saying: “I ... Dr Bashar Hafez al Assad ... wish to nominate myself for the post of president of the republic, hoping that parliament will endorse it.”

Assad – who took over power from his father in 2000 – was widely expected to run for a third term in office. Each term is seven years.

Opposition activists and the West have criticized the balloting, saying it will only exacerbate Syria’s three-year civil war that has killed over 150,000 people and displaced more than one-third of the population, the Associated Press reported.

The Arab League has also criticized the move last week, with its head, Nabil el-Araby, saying “this step could suspend the desired efforts of maturing negotiations for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.”

Six other contenders are in the race, but they are mostly expected to give the election a veneer of legitimacy.

Earlier this month, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said the elections would not be delayed and that military operations would continue regardless of the poll, according to state news agency SANA.

The country's electoral commission chief said on Monday that Syrians who have fled the war-torn country via unofficial crossings will not be allowed to vote in the elections.

"Syrians who left Syria illegally do not have the right to vote in host countries," Hisham Shaar was quoted as saying by pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan on Monday.

According to the U.N., 88 percent of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon -- now home to more than a million people who fled Syria's brutal war -- entered via official crossings. However, those who fled to Turkey and Iraq did not.

"Syrian territory is open to all Syrian citizens who wish to exercise their right to vote, especially those living in neighbouring countries," Shaar said.

(With the Associated Press and Reuters)