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Assad easily wins reelection in war-divided Syria

By Nathan Salant     Jun 5, 2014 in World
Damascus - Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was overwhelmingly re-elected in the first presidential vote since civil war broke out three years ago, state-run television said Wednesday.
Assad received 88.7% of Tuesday's vote in balloting held only in areas under government control, state media said.
Anti-Assad rebel groups control large areas of Syria's north and east.
The voting took place over the objections of opposition groups and Western countries that complained that the election was unfair, according to Cable News Network (CNN).
Assad's two opponents -- Hassan al-Nouri, a businessman and former minister, and lawmaker Maher Hajjar -- shared 7.5 percent of the vote, marking the first time Assad had faced any opposition in any of his elections.
Syria's government dismissed as unfounded all criticism of the election process, CNN said.
The vote was held in the midst of heavy fighting, artillery fire and aerial bombing that has killed more than 150,000 people, mostly civilians, in the three-year-old civil war.
Twenty-four civilians were reportedly killed on Wednesday, mostly in Aleppo and Damascus, CNN said.
On a Facebook page, Assad had urged people to vote "in a way that reflects our high morals and civilization as Syrians," CNN said.
But Assad opponents and international monitors said the election should never have been held under current conditions in the country.
Yet not everyone believed the election was worth celebrating -- or that it should have been held at all.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had urged Syria's government not to hold the election because it could "damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution" to the civil war., CNN said.
Armed rebel group The Islamic Front contended the Assad government was blackmailing people to vote in what it called a fake election, CNN said.
The British Foreign Office called the voting "a grotesque parody of democracy," and the US State Department said the Assad government had made it "difficult if not impossible to have a fair and free election."
More about Syria, assad, Civil War, Election, Damascus
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