Damascus (AFP) – Syrians in government-held areas voted Tuesday in a controversial presidential election in which incumbent Bashar al-Assad is looking to boost his grip but which the exiled opposition has slammed as a “farce”.
Assad is facing two little-known challengers and is expected to win a crushing victory despite the three-year-old civil war which the United Nations has warned is likely to drag on even longer as a result of the election.
There was no voting in the roughly 60 percent of the country outside the control of Assad’s government, which includes large areas of second city Aleppo.
But polling was held in the heart of third city Homs, in ruins after rebel forces pulled out early last month following a devastating two-year siege in a boost for the president whose family has held power in Syria for more than 40 years.
Assad and his British-born wife Asma voted in central Damascus and state television aired footage of them as they cast their ballots, the president wearing a dark blue suit, the first lady a white blouse, a black business skirt and stiletto heels.
The capital is firmly under the government’s control but comes under periodic rebel bombardment from the suburbs, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that several neighborhoods came under fire on Tuesday.
Billboards glorifying Assad cover the streets of Damascus although inside polling stations photographs of his two challengers — Hassan al-Nuri and Maher al-Hajjar — had been put up alongside the president’s.
None of the voters questioned by AFP said they had voted for the challengers.
Nadia Hazim said she would “vote for the president — of course”.
Hind al-Homsi, 46, said she had made a small cut in her finger and left a bloody fingerprint on the circle underneath Assad’s name.
“I want to vote in blood for the president. He is the best,” she said.
In the central city of Homs, security forces deployed in strength a day after a truck bomb killed 10 people in the nearby countryside.
Copyright 2014 The National Memo