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Al-Assad victory expected

June 4, 2014

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to have won a presidential election against two low-profile opponents. The election, which only took place in some parts of Syria, has been roundly condemned as a farce.

A woman marks her ballot paper at polling centre in Damascus June 3, 2014. Syrians voted on Tuesday in an election expected to deliver an overwhelming victory for President Bashar al-Assad but which his opponents have dismissed as a charade in the midst of Syria's devastating civil war. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri
Image: Reuters

Polls closed at midnight local time after an extension was made because of what the interior ministry said was "high turnout" in the Tuesday poll. State media reported that counting had begun almost immediately. It was unclear when the final result would be announced, although one source close to the regime said it was likely to be on Thursday.

A reporter for the AP news agency, who claimed to have watched the vote, said that all but two of the 2,196 ballots cast in one central Damascus voting booth had been for Assad to receive a new seven-year mandate.

In Damascus, voting took place even as shells and explosions could be heard in the streets, at the same time as pro-Assad election songs.

It is the first time in half a century that Syrians have been offered a choice of candidates. However, neither former minister Hassan al-Nuri nor ex-parliamentarian Maher al-Hajjar are believed to have any degree of support.

Poll given short shrift

The election was described as a "sham" by nations that have thrown their weight behind the opposition Syrian National Coalition, which include France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US.

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the election was a "disgrace" and "staged," stressing that so many people had been denied the vote.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the elections had been a "farce." "It doesn't fulfill international standards for free, fair and transparent elections," Rasmussen said in Brussels, adding that no ally will recognize the outcome.

Bulk of country disenfranchised

There was no voting in some 60 percent of the country that lies outside government control, including large areas of Syria's second city Aleppo.

Some 15.8 million Syrians had been eligible to vote at 9,601 polling stations, according to official figures. However, there was no voting in rebel-held areas, which include most of northern and eastern Syria. Many of those entitled to vote were unable to do so, having been displaced from home by the fighting.

UN agencies say more than 40 percent of Syria's pre-war population of 22.4 million has been displaced by the conflict. Some 2.8 million have fled to neighboring countries.

rc/lw (AP, Reuters, AFP)