Bashar al Assad re elected for fourth term as Syrian President

Bashar al Assad re elected for fourth term as Syrian President

Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected for a fourth term as president of war-ravaged Syria, official results showed on Thursday.

Areas controlled by rebels or Kurdish-led troops did not hold the vote, and over five million refugees who are mainly living in neighbouring countries largely chose not to cast their ballots, reported foreign media.

The controversial vote extending Assad’s stranglehold on power was the second since the start of a decade-long civil conflict that has killed more than 388,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure.

The parliamentary speaker announced Thursday that Assad garnered 95.1 percent of the votes cast, trouncing two virtually unknown challengers.

The president wrote on his campaign's Facebook page: "Thank you to all Syrians for their high sense of nationalism and their notable participation... 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."

Assad had faced symbolic competition from two candidates, former deputy cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, the head of a small, officially sanctioned opposition party.

The win will give the 55-year-old seven more years in power, stretching his family's rule to almost six decades.

His father, Hafez al Assad, was the country's leader until his death in 2000.

On the eve of the election, the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was “neither free nor fair”, and Syria’s fragmented opposition has called it a “farce”.

Standing against him were former state minister Abdallah Salloum Abdallah and Mahmud Merhi, a member of the so-called “tolerated opposition”, long dismissed by exiled opposition leaders as an extension of the regime.