Posters plastered on walls of the capital and songs blaring from cars and loudspeakers proclaimed "We love you" as Syrians voted in a referendum to endorse President Bashar Assad - the only candidate - for a second term.
But the country's tiny opposition boycotted the voting Sunday, saying Syrians should have a choice in who governs them. And critics of Assad's regime accuse him of clamping down on pro-democracy activists, rampant corruption and mass arrests, though many are fearful of openly expressing dissent.
The regime is also under intense international scrutiny, accused of meddling in Iraq, supporting Palestinian militant groups and involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in 2005. Under Assad's rule, Syrian troops were forced out of Lebanon following an outcry over Hariri's killing.
Still the Syrian president is assured of another seven-year term in a referendum that gave voters just one choice: a green circle to approve Assad or a gray one to oppose his second term. In his first referendum, he received 97.29 percent approval.