DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad was re-elected in a landslide, officials said Thursday, ushering in a fourth seven-year term in the war-torn country following an election described as illegitimate and a sham by the West and his opposition.
Assad’s win was not in doubt, in an election where officials said 18 million were eligible to vote. But in the country ravaged by the 10-year-old conflict, areas controlled by rebels or Kurdish-led troops did not hold the vote. At least 8 million, mostly displaced, live in those areas in northwest and northeast Syria. Over 5 million refugees — mostly living in neighboring countries — have largely refrained from casting their ballots.
U.S. and European officials have also questioned the legitimacy of the election, saying it violates UN resolutions in place to resolve the conflict, lacks any international monitoring, and is unrepresentative of all Syrians.
Syria’s parliament speaker, Hammoud Sabbagh, announced the final results from Wednesday’s vote. He said Assad garnered 95.1% of the votes .
He was facing symbolic competition from two candidates— a former minister and a former opposition figure.
Assad’s victory comes as the country is still devastated by the conflict. Fighting has subsided but the war is not over. An economic crisis is deteriorating in a country where over 80% of the population lives below the poverty line and the local currency is in a free fall.