Damascus, May 27 (EFE).- Syrian President Bashar al Assad was reelected to a fourth term and will continue governing the wartorn Arab nation for seven more years, reportedly garnering 95.1 percent of the vote in a controversial election held this week in the territories under his control.
“I’m happy and honored to announce the victory of Bashar Hafez al Assad to the post of president of the Arab Republic of Syria,” the president of parliament, Hamuda al Sabag, announced on Thursday from the legislature.
Al Assad obtained 13,540,869 votes, while his election rival Mahmud Marai, a leader of the internal opposition tolerated by the Damascus regime, received 470,276 votes and former Vice Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Abdullah Salloum Abdullah received 213,968 votes.
Some 14.24 million voters participated in the election out of a total of 18 million people eligible to cast ballots both inside and outside the country, Al Sabag said in an announcement that finally was made after the scheduled time.
“This is the will of the people and nothing is above that, because it is the will of God that the people have freedom to elect (officials) and determine their future as the role for the construction of nations,” the parliamentary leader said.
These are the first elections held amid relative calm since the start of the armed internal conflict in 2011 and they have been widely rejected by the opposition abroad and a portion of the international community.
In addition, the United Nations has distanced itself from the election because it is not part of the peace plan for a political solution in Syria that it has been pushing for since 2015, while some countries and sectors of the opposition in exile consider the vote a “farce” designed only to reconfirm Assad in power.
Thousands of people gathered in several city squares in the territories under the control of the Assad regime to await the election results, carrying Syrian flags and, in some cases, photos of Assad, according to images broadcast by the official Syrian media outlets.
This latest expected victory was not a surprise to anyone. The current president – an ophthalmologist by training who has presided over a brutal regime that had crushed dissent – came to power after the death of his father Hafez in 2000 when a referendum was held confirming him as the country’s new leader. In 2007, he was once again proclaimed president in a popular referendum.
With the revolts that erupted in Syria against his government in 2011, the president reformed the political system to allow the formation of other parties and the selection of the head of state by means of election.
In 2014, Assad won the country’s first presidential election with more than one candidate in the running.