BEIRUT

Middle East

Syria says turnout in presidential vote 73 percent

A Syrian man casts his ballot holding a placard bearing a portrait of current President and candidate Bashar al-Assad during the presidential election on June 3, 2014 at a polling station in Damascus. AFP PHOTO/ LOUAI BESHARA

DAMASCUS, Syria: The head of Syria's Supreme Constitutional Court said Wednesday that turnout in the country's presidential election this week was 73.42 percent.

Majed Khadra said that 11,634,412 out of a total of 15,845,575 eligible voters cast their ballots in Tuesday's polls. Khadra said the court has handed the official election results to the speaker of parliament, who is responsible for announcing them. State television said that the results would be released later Wednesday.

The election, which President Bashar Assad is all but guaranteed to win, was held only in government-held areas, excluding vast chunks of northern and eastern Syria that are under rebel control. The opposition and its allies have denounced the election as a farce.

For the first time in decades, there were multiple candidates on the ballot. In previous presidential elections, Assad and before him his father, Hafez, were elected in single candidate referendums in which voters cast yes-no ballots.

The government has sought to present this vote as a democratic solution to Syria's three-year conflict, although a win for Assad is certain to prolong the war. Much of northern and eastern Syria is in rebel hands, and those in the armed opposition show no signs of relenting in their fight to oust Assad.

Syria's 3-year-old conflict, which activists say has killed more than 160,000 people, has left the international community deeply divided, with the U.S. and its allies backing the revolt against Assad, who enjoys the support of Russia and Iran.

That division persisted in perceptions of Tuesday's vote.

In Beirut, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized the Syrian election, calling it "a great big zero." He said it can't be considered fair "because you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have an ability to vote."

"Nothing has changed from the day before the election and the day after. Nothing," Kerry said during a one-day visit to the Lebanese capital. "The conflict is the same, the terror is the same, the killing is the same."

The European Union joined the U.S. in condemning the election, saying in a statement that "it cannot be considered as a genuinely democratic vote."

In Damascus, meanwhile, a delegation led by the government's chief international supporters said Syria's first multi-candidate presidential election in over four decades was transparent and free, and would pave the way for "stability and national agreement."

The delegation of officials from more than 30 countries, including legislators and dignitaries from Iran, Russia and Venezuela, toured polling stations on Tuesday. In a final statement read Wednesday by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament's Committee on National Security, the delegation blamed the U.S and its allies for "crimes committed against the Syrian people."

 

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Summary

The head of Syria's Supreme Constitutional Court said Wednesday that turnout in the country's presidential election this week was 73.42 percent.

The election, which President Bashar Assad is all but guaranteed to win, was held only in government-held areas, excluding vast chunks of northern and eastern Syria that are under rebel control.

The government has sought to present this vote as a democratic solution to Syria's three-year conflict, although a win for Assad is certain to prolong the war.

Syria's 3-year-old conflict, which activists say has killed more than 160,000 people, has left the international community deeply divided, with the U.S. and its allies backing the revolt against Assad, who enjoys the support of Russia and Iran.


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