Syria al-Assad wipes Western election fraud allegations to win fourth term as president

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brushed aside allegations of electoral fraud by the West when he won a fourth term with a landslide of 95.1 percent of the vote.

Assad’s government says Wednesday’s elections show that Syria is functioning normally despite the decade-old conflict in which hundreds of thousands have died and 11 million people – about half the population – have been driven from their homes.

But Western powers and Assad’s opposition have described the election, which lasted 17 hours without independent observers, as illegal and a sham.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brushed off allegations of electoral fraud by the West when he won a fourth term with a landslide of 95.1 percent of the vote

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brushed off allegations of electoral fraud by the West when he won a fourth term with a landslide of 95.1 percent of the vote

Damascus erupted in celebrations, with gunfire and fireworks lighting up the night sky on May 27

Damascus erupted in celebrations, with gunfire and fireworks lighting up the night sky on May 27

Assad's government says Wednesday's elections show that Syria is functioning normally despite the decade-old conflict.  Pictured: Bashar al-Assad waves to his supporters in a polling station on Wednesday

Assad’s government says Wednesday’s elections show that Syria is functioning normally despite the decade-old conflict. Pictured: Bashar al-Assad waves to his supporters in a polling station on Wednesday

In the land ravaged by war, areas controlled by rebels or troops led by Kurdish troops did not hold the vote. At least 8 million, most of them displaced, live in those areas in northwestern and northeastern Syria.

More than 5 million refugees – most of them living in neighboring countries – have largely refrained from voting.

The head of parliament Hammouda Sabbagh announced the results at a press conference on Thursday, saying the turnout was about 78 percent, with more than 14 million Syrians taking part.

The elections went ahead despite a UN-led peace process that called for voting under international scrutiny, which would help pave the way for a new constitution and political settlement.

It led US and European officials to question the legitimacy of the election, saying it was in violation of current UN resolutions to resolve the conflict lacks any international oversight and is not representative of all Syrians.

Foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the US said in a statement criticizing Assad ahead of the election that the vote would not be free or fair. Turkey, an Assad opponent, has also said the elections were illegal.

The victory puts Assad, 55, in power for another seven years and extends his family’s rule to nearly six decades. His father, Hafez al-Assad, led Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000.

Pictured: A general image, taken on Oct. 6, 2014, shows the Dakhaniyeh district, southeast of the capital Damascus, after Syrian government forces took control of the area.

Pictured: A general image, taken on Oct. 6, 2014, shows the Dakhaniyeh district, southeast of the capital Damascus, after Syrian government forces took control of the area.

Syrians walk a badly damaged road in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor in this file image taken in January 2014

Syrians walk a badly damaged road in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor in this file image taken in January 2014

Assad’s years as president were defined by the conflict that began with peaceful protests in 2011, before culminating in a multifaceted conflict that broke the country in the Middle East and attracted foreign friends and enemies.

Thanks to all Syrians for their high sense of nationalism and their remarkable participation. For the future of Syrian children and his youth, let’s start our work campaign to build hope and build Syria, ” Assad wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page.

Assad’s biggest challenge, now that he has regained control of about 70% of the country, will be backsliding.

An economic crisis worsens in a country where more than 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and the local currency is in free fall.

Tightening US sanctions, the financial collapse of neighboring Lebanon, the COVID-19 pandemic affecting remittances from Syrians abroad and the inability of allies Russia and Iran to provide adequate assistance mean that the prospects for recovery look dire .

A group of Assad supporters stand on a car as they celebrate Thursday's election results

A group of Assad supporters are standing on a car as they celebrate for the election results on Thursday

Gatherings with thousands of people waving Syrian flags and taking pictures of Assad singing and dancing took place all Thursday in celebration of the election

Gatherings with thousands of people waving Syrian flags and taking pictures of Assad singing and dancing took place all Thursday in celebration of the election

Gatherings with thousands of people waving Syrian flags and holding photos of Assad singing and dancing took place all Thursday to celebrate the election.

Damascus erupted in celebrations, with gunfire and fireworks lighting up the night sky. The thousands of supporters sang, “With our soul, blood, we defend your Bashar” and “We only choose three: God, Syria and Bashar.”

There was a large stage in Omayyad Square in the capital, with speakers playing national songs. Hardly anyone wore a face mask, although Syria is facing a wave of coronavirus cases.

Officials have told Reuters privately that authorities have organized major rallies in recent days to encourage voting, and the security apparatus underlying Assad’s Alawite-dominated rule had ordered state officials to vote.

The vote was boycotted by US-backed Kurdish forces running an autonomous oil-rich region in the northeast and northwestern region of Idlib, the last existing rebel enclave, where people denounced elections in large demonstrations on Wednesday.

Assad pitted against two shady candidates: former Deputy Cabinet Minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, head of a small, officially sanctioned opposition party.

Marei got 3.3 percent of the vote, while Saloum got 1.5 percent, Sabbagh said.

The elections are unlikely to change conditions in Syria. While Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran, may be looking for a new seal of legitimacy for the president in office since 2000, his reelection is likely to deepen the rift with the West, also bringing him closer to Russian and Iranian backers. shown. like China.

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