Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wins third term

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image copyrightAFP
image captionPresident Bashar al-Assad's win was seen by many as a foregone conclusion

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has won a third term in office after securing 88.7% of votes in Tuesday's presidential election, the parliamentary speaker has announced.

Earlier, Syria's Supreme Constitutional Court put the turnout at 73.47%.

Voting took place in government-controlled areas, but not in parts of the north and east held by rebels.

Tens of thousands of people have died in three years of civil war in Syria, with millions more displaced.

President Assad's sole challengers, Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, received 4.3% and 3.2% of the vote respectively.

Celebratory gunfire

It was the first time in decades that someone other than a member of the Assad family had been allowed to stand for president in Syria.

But Mr Assad's opponents and people living in rebel-held areas dismissed the election as a farce, arguing that it has no credibility in the midst of a civil war.

The opposition's allies in the West also denounced the ballot, with US Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to neighbouring Lebanon, describing it as "meaningless".

image copyrightAFP
image captionSyrian parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Laham announced the results in a televised address

The results were announced by the Speaker of the People's Assembly, Mohammad al-Laham, on Wednesday.

The Supreme Constitutional Court had earlier announced that some 11.63 million Syrians voted out of a total of 15.85 million eligible to cast a ballot.

The win is likely to boost Mr Assad's supporters. Over the past year, the government has made significant military gains and rebel groups have fought among themselves.

This is not an election that can be analysed in the same way as a multi-party, multi-candidate election in one of the established European democracies or in the US, says the BBC's Jeremy Bowen in Damascus.

It was an act of homage to President Assad by his supporters, which was boycotted and rejected by opponents rather than an act of politics, he adds.

image copyrightAP
image captionSupporters of President al-Assad took to the streets of Damascus after the results were announced
image copyrightAP
image captionHeavy fighting continues in many parts of Syria, including airstrikes in Aleppo this week

The vote has faced sharp criticism from the US and its allies. "You can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have an ability to vote," Mr Kerry said.

The EU said it could not be considered "a genuinely democratic vote".

A delegation of the government's main international supporters, including Russia, Iran and Venezuela, said the election was transparent and free, and that it would pave the way for "stability and national agreement".

In a speech at the China-Arab forum on Thursday, China's President Xi Jinping did not mention the vote but called for "the opening of an inclusive political process to bring about a political resolution" to the conflict.

Also on Wednesday, the head of the international mission in charge of destroying Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons called on the government and the international community to ensure that the last 16 containers of toxic chemicals were immediately removed from the country.

After briefing the UN Security Council, Sigrid Kaag said Syrian authorities had "legitimate" security concerns about transporting the remaining 7.2% of the stockpile from a "very volatile" area near Damascus to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

Ms Kaag reiterated that Syria would not meet the 30 June deadline for the complete destruction or removal of its chemical arsenal, but that she hoped it would be completed within a few months.

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