Bashar al-Assad will serve a fourth term in office after winning Syria’s presidential election.
The parliamentary speaker told a live press conference that Assad had won 95.1% of the vote, and that turnout was 78.6%. His two challengers won 1.5% and 3.3% respectively.
The election was held in government-controlled areas of the country and in some Syrian embassies overseas.
The country’s exiled opposition called the vote a farce and a large protest against the election was held in the rebel-controlled Idlib province, says the BBC.
A spokesman for the Syrian Negotiation Commission, said that the result showed contempt for the Syrian people. “It’s a decision by the government, aided by Russia and Iran, to kill the political process,” he said. “It’s a continuation of tyranny.”
Foreign ministers from France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US released a joint statement before the vote, calling the election “illegitimate” and saying it would be “neither free nor fair” without the supervision of the United Nations.
“We support the voices of all Syrians, including civil society organisations and the Syrian opposition, who have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate,” the statement added.
As he cast his ballot on Wednesday, Assad said the West’s opinion counted for “zero”.
Syria had invited international election observers from Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and Armenia, Al Jazeera reported.
Assad, 55, has been president since 2000. He succeeded his late father, Hafez, who had ruled Syria for more than a quarter of a century.
Syria has been devastated by a decade-long conflict that erupted after Assad’s government responded with deadly force to peaceful pro-democracy protests in March 2011.
The fighting since has left nearly 400,000 people dead and caused up to half the population to abandon their homes, including almost six million who fled abroad.
Syria’s last election was held in 2014, despite fighting raging across the country and the opposition refusing to participate.
Since then the tide of the war has turned decisively in Assad’s favour, with Russian air strikes and Iran-backed militias helping the Syrian army regain control of the biggest cities.
However, large parts of the country are still held by rebels, jihadists and Kurdish-led forces, and a political solution to the conflict seems a distant prospect.
“Thank you to all Syrians for their high sense of nationalism and their notable participation,” Assad said in a statement after the results were announced. “For the future of Syria’s children and its youth, let’s start from tomorrow our campaign of work to build hope and build Syria.”