Landslide win for Assad in Syria's presidential elections
Kerry says Syrian vote, which only took place in government-held areas, are meaningless.
Syria's parliament speaker said Wednesday President Bashar Assad has been reelected by a landslide, capturing 88.7 percent of the vote.
Jihad Laham said late on Wednesday that Assad's two challengers, Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, won 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.
The Supreme Constitutional Court said turnout was 73.42 percent. A spokesman for the court said 11.63 million Syrians voted in Tuesday's election inside the country and in an earlier round of voting outside Syria for refugees and expatriates. There were 15.85 million eligible voters in total, he said.
After the results were released, Damascus erupted into a thunderous, rolling clap of celebratory gunfire that appeared to include heavy weaponry. On the streets of the capital, men cheered and whistled. Some broke into the familiar pro-Assad chant: "With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Bashar!"
Tuesday's vote was only held in government-controlled areas, and the opposition has denounced the election amid Syria's civil war as a farce.
Assad's victory was always a foregone conclusion, despite the presence of other candidates on the ballot for the first time in decades.
The win boosts his support base, and provides further evidence that Assad has no intention of relinquishing power.
Assad's foes have dismissed the election as a charade, saying the two relatively unknown challengers offered no real alternative and that no poll held in the midst of civil war could be considered credible.
Voting took place in government-controlled areas of Syria, but not in large parts of northern and eastern Syria held by rebels fighting to end 44 years of Assad family rule.
The conflict has killed 160,000 people, driven nearly 3 million abroad as refugees and displaced many more inside Syria.
Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized Syria's presidential vote this week as "a great big zero," saying Wednesday that it can't be considered fair "because you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have an ability to vote."
Kerry's comments came a day after Syrians in government-controlled areas voted in a presidential election all but guaranteed to hand President Bashar Assad another seven-year term. Voting did not take place in rebel-held areas, and the opposition has denounced the vote as a farce.
"Nothing has changed from the day before the election and the day after. Nothing," Kerry said during a one-day visit to the Lebanese capital. "The conflict is the same, the terror is the same, the killing is the same."
The European Union joined the U.S. in condemning the election, saying in a statement that "it cannot be considered as a genuinely democratic vote."
Syria's 3-year-old conflict, which activists say has killed more than 160,000 people, has left the international community deeply divided, with the U.S. and its allies backing the revolt against Assad, who enjoys the support of Russia and Iran.
That division persisted in perceptions of Tuesday's vote, which Assad's allies insisted makes his removal by military means impossible.
In Damascus, meanwhile, a delegation led by the government's chief international supporters said Syria's first multi-candidate presidential election in over four decades was transparent and free, and would pave the way for "stability and national agreement."
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