Syria has announced that Bashar al-Assad won 95.1 percent of the vote this week in a presidential election which has been rejected as fraudulent by the opposition and Western nations.
Head of parliament Hammouda Sabbagh announced the results on Thursday, saying voter turnout was around 78 percent, with more than 14 million Syrians taking part in Syria and the diaspora.
“Thank you to all Syrians for their high sense of nationalism and their notable participation,” Assad wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page. “For the future of Syria’s children and its youth, let’s start from tomorrow our campaign of work to build hope and build Syria.”
Assad was running against former deputy cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, head of a small opposition party. Marei got 3.3 percent of the vote, and Saloum 1.5 percent, Sabbagh said.
Rallies took place all day on Thursday in celebration of the election, with thousands of the president’s supporters waving Syrian flags and holding pictures of Assad while singing and dancing.
But hundreds of Syrians in Idlib province, the opposition’s last redoubt, protested against the election and Assad’s rule. The vote was also boycotted by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces who administer an autonomous oil-rich region in the northeast.
In a statement criticising Assad ahead of the election, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States said that the vote would not be free or fair.
They said: “We denounce the Assad regime’s decision to hold an election outside of the framework described in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and we support the voices of all Syrians, including civil society organisations and the Syrian opposition, who have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate.
“As outlined in the Resolution, free and fair elections should be convened under UN supervision to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability. For an election to be credible, all Syrians should be allowed to participate, including internally displaced Syrians, refugees, and members of the diaspora, in a safe and neutral environment.
“Without these elements, this fraudulent election does not represent any progress towards a political settlement. We urge the international community to unequivocally reject this attempt by the Assad regime to regain legitimacy without ending its grave human rights violations and meaningfully participating in the UN-facilitated political process to end the conflict.”
Assad, 55, now has seven more years in power and extends his family’s rule over Syria to nearly six decades.
His years as president have been defined by the conflict that began in 2011, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions.
Assad now rules over approximately 70 per cent of Syria.