Assad wins landslide 88.7% election victory
The Syrian Supreme Constitutional Court says voter turnout was 73.42 percent
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has won the presidential election in a landslide victory with 88.7 percent of the vote, the country’s parliament speaker said Wednesday, in an election dismissed as a sham by his opponents and held amid a raging civil war which grew out of protests against his rule.
Speaker Mohammad al-Laham said Assad secured 88.7 percent of the votes cast in the election which was restricted to the parts of Syria under the control of his forces.
“I declare the victory of Dr Bashar Hafez al-Assad as president of the Syrian Arab Republic with an absolute majority of the votes cast in the election,” Laham said in a televised address from his office in the Syrian parliament.
Syria’s constitutional court earlier said that turnout in Tuesday’s election and a previous round of voting for Syrian
expatriates and refugees stood at 73 percent.
The Supreme Constitutional Court said voter turnout was 73.42 percent.
Celebratory gunfire killed at least three people despite earlier warning by President Assad to celebrate in a “in a way that reflects our high morals” and not by “shooting fire in the air which poses a threat to the citizens’ lives.”
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least three people in Damascus were killed by celebratory gunfire.
The balloting is widely expected to give Assad a third seven-year term in office.
He is running up against two other candidates - Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, 46, and Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri, 54, both little-known lawmakers.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized the election as “a great big zero,” saying that 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 during a one-day visit to the Lebanese capital on Wednesday. “The conflict is the same, the terror is the same, the killing is the same.”
The European Union joined the United States in condemning the election, saying in a statement that “it cannot be considered as a genuinely democratic vote.”
Syria’s 3-year-old conflict, which activists say has killed more than 160,000 people, has left the international community deeply divided, with the United States and its allies backing the revolt against Assad, who enjoys the support of Russia and Iran.
That division persisted in perceptions of Tuesday’s vote, which Assad’s allies insisted makes his removal by military means impossible.
“Free and fair”
In Damascus, meanwhile, a delegation led by the government’s chief international supporters said Syria’s first multi-candidate presidential election in over four decades was transparent and free, and would pave the way for “stability and national agreement.”
The delegation of officials from more than 30 countries, including legislators and dignitaries from Iran, Russia and Venezuela, toured polling stations on Tuesday.
In a final statement read Wednesday by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament’s Committee on National Security, the delegation blamed the U.S and its allies for “crimes committed against the Syrian people.”
“These elections have happened in ... a transparent, democratic way,” said the statement, which was released in Arabic and English. “These elections in Syria pave the way for a new stage of stability and national agreement in this country after more than three years of war imposed by foreign parties.”
The Syrian government claims that the uprising against Assad is part of a foreign conspiracy to destroy the country.
Voting took place only in government-controlled areas, excluding much of northern and eastern Syria. 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.
Assad, 48, has ruled Syria since 2000, when he took over after the death of his father, Hafez Assad, who ruled the country for the previous three decades. On Tuesday, the younger Assad faced two government-approved challengers, Maher Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri, both of whom were little known before declaring their candidacies in April.
Russian Senator Alexey Alexandrov, a member of the delegation, told reporters in Damascus that the elections assured “Assad’s legitimacy and meant he could not be removed in a military operation.”
“I am sure that the elections that happened in Syria were done according to all the principles of democracy and international law,” said the senator, whose country, along with China, has four times vetoed U.N. Security Council sanctions on Damascus.
“It’s impossible ... to remove any legitimate leader elected by the people in a military maneuver,” he said.