Damascus/Beirut Jul 17 (EFE).- Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday was sworn in for a fourth consecutive term after his overwhelming victory in May’s controversial elections held amid a severe economic crisis in the war-torn country.
Assad won 95.1 percent of the votes in the presidential elections held on 26 May that were criticized by the opposition and most of the international community.
In his speech, Assad vowed to address the dire economic situation, declaring he had won back the “homeland” in the decade-long war after his troops regained control over most of the territory over the past five years.
“They wanted chaos that burns our nation, but with your national unity, you fired the bullet of mercy at the projects that targeted the homeland,” he said during the ceremony.
The event held at Damascus’ presidential palace was attended by hundreds of government members, legislators, civil society representatives and senior military officials.
Only the northwest of the country, which is in the hands of Islamist and opposition groups, and the northeast, de facto administered by an autonomous Kurdish authority, have eluded Assad’s troops.
The vote, which was not part of the UN-sponsored peace plan, was not held in those areas outside Assad’s control.
Regaining control of those two regions is expected to be Assad’s main challenge in his seven-year tenure, Imad Rizk, Director General of the Consultancy for Strategic Studies told EFE.
Assad will focus on keeping the northeastern areas as part of Syria, working for the northwestern province of Idlib, the country’s last opposition stronghold, and completing operations against the Islamic State terror group in the central desert to prevent it from “reorganizing”, Rizk added.
Military success in these areas is also key to solving the economic crisis in the country, economist and researcher Hamidi al Abdullah told EFE.