Bashar Al Assad was unsurprisingly re-elected President of Syria on Thursday 27 May for a fourth term in an election held in regions under government control, in a country in the midst of an economic slump ravaged by a decade of war.

At an evening press conference, Parliament Speaker Hammoud Sabbagha announced that Bashar Al Assad had been re-elected with 95.1% of the vote. According to him, 14.2 million people took part in the poll, out of the 18.1 million theoretically called to vote, ie a participation rate of 76.64%. Two personalities considered to be stooges, the former minister and parliamentarian Abdallah Salloum Abdallah and a member of the opposition tolerated by the government, Mahmoud Mareï won respectively 1.5% and 3.3% of the vote.

→ ANALYSIS. In Syria, a sham presidential elections

In Damascus, thousands of Bashar al-Assad supporters gathered in Umayyad Square, waving Syrian flags and portraits of the president, chanting slogans to his glory and dancing. “By our soul, by our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you Bashar”, they intoned. The evening was punctuated by patriotic songs, light shows and fireworks.

Second presidential election since the start of the conflict

Propelled to power in 2000, succeeding his father Hafez, who died after 30 years of unchallenged reign, Bashar Al Assad blasted Westerners, Washington and Europeans on Wednesday, judging that the election was not free. In 2014, he had obtained more than 88% of the votes according to the official results.

This is the second presidential election since the start in 2011 of a devastating war involving a multitude of belligerents and foreign powers. Born from the repression of pro-democracy demonstrations, this conflict has left more than 388,000 dead. In a country with ruined infrastructure, Bashar Al Assad presents himself as the man of reconstruction, after having chained military victories since 2015 with the support of his allies, Russia and Iran, taking over two thirds of the territory .

The Kurdish autonomous regions in the northeast ignored the ballot. Just like the last great jihadist and rebel stronghold of Idleb (north-west), which is home to some three million inhabitants. The ballot de facto excluded opposition figures in exile, very weakened, the electoral law requiring candidates to have lived in Syria for ten consecutive years. Washington and several European powers had already condemned on the eve of the deadline an election which “Will be neither free nor just”. The opposition spoke of “Masquerade”. “Your opinions are worth nothing”, retorted Wednesday Bashar Al Assad.

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