Syrian President Bashar Assad faces new elections .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - President Bashar Assad secured re-election by a landslide, Syria's parliamentary speaker said on Wednesday, in a vote dismissed as a sham by his opponents and held amid a raging civil war which grew out of protests against his rule.
Speaker Mohammad al-Laham said Assad secured 88.7 percent of the votes cast in the election which was restricted to the parts of Syria under the control of his forces.
"I declare the victory of Dr Bashar Hafez Assad as president of the Syrian Arab Republic with an absolute majority of the votes cast in the election," Laham said in a televised address from his office in the Syrian parliament.
Syria's constitutional court earlier said that turnout in Tuesday's election and a previous round of voting for Syrian expatriates and refugees stood at 73 percent.
Assad's foes have ridiculed the election, saying the two relatively unknown and state-approved challengers offered no real alternative to Assad. Former minister Hassan al-Nouri got 4.3 percent of the vote while parliamentarian Maher Hajjar secured 3.2 percent, less than the number of spoiled ballots.
They also said that no credible poll could be held in the midst of a conflict which has killed 160,000 people, driven millions from their homes and left swathes of northern and eastern Syria beyond Assad's control.
"These elections are illegitimate and undermine the political efforts to find a solution to this horrific conflict," the European Union said in a statement.
The United States, which has repeatedly said Assad lost his legitimacy when he responded with force to an outbreak of protests more than three years ago, said the vote changed nothing.
"With respect to the elections that took place, the so-called elections, the elections are non-elections, the elections are a great big zero," Secretary of State John Kerry said during a brief visit to neighbouring Lebanon.
"They are meaningless, and they are meaningless because you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have the ability to vote, where they don't have the ability to contest the election, and they have no choice."
Syrian officials had described the predicted victory as vindication of Assad's three-year campaign against the rebels and a landmark for democracy - the first time in half a century that Syria has held a contested presidential election.
Previous presidential votes had been referenda to approve the appointment of Bashar and his father Hafez Assad, who ruled for 30 years until his death in 2000. Hafez never won less than 99 percent, while his son scored 97 percent in 2007.
Assad's victory came a week after former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah Sisi secured 96.9 percent of votes in Egypt's presidential election. Turnout in Egypt was 47 percent, the country's election commission said.