Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has won a new seven-year term with nearly 90 percent of the vote but Washington said the “non-election” changed nothing and activists said it would spell only more war.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in government-held areas even before the results were announced on Wednesday evening, waving portraits of Assad and the official Syrian flag.
Celebratory gunfire erupted in the capital and in loyalist areas across Syria. At least 10 people were killed as the bullets fell back to earth, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In opposition-held areas where no election was held on Tuesday, activists reacted with the Arab Spring slogan of 2011 that has been the rally cry of their uprising — “The people want the fall of the regime.”
Pro-government newspapers all carried front-page photographs of the re-elected president. Images of Assad in suit and tie, or more rarely military uniform, filled the programming of state television.
The ruling Baath party´s newspaper vowed that Syrians would show the same steadfastness against rebel attack in rebuilding their country that they displayed on polling day.
“After the historic vote, Syrians will accomplish a military, political and social mission, as well as the reconstruction of the country, by defying the mortars that are launched every day by the terrorists,” Al-Baath said in an editorial.
Some 11.6 million of the 15.8 million eligible voters turned out in government-held areas, according to official figures, despite attacks that killed 24 people on polling day, according to the Observatory.
Critics charged that many of those who voted did so more out of fear than commitment to Assad, whose family has ruled Syria with a rod of iron for four decades.