Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in after the May election, described by the opposition as illegitimate and a farce.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been sworn in for a fourth seven-year term in the war-ravaged country, after winning more than 95.1% of the vote in government areas.
Opponents of al-Assad and Western countries described the May 26 election as illegitimate and a farce.
Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony was held at Damascus Presidential Palace and was attended by more than 600 people, including clergy, members of parliament, political figures and army officials.
The election “has demonstrated the strength of popular legitimacy that the people have bestowed on the state,” al-Assad, 55, said in his inaugural address.
“They have discredited the statements of Western officials on the legitimacy of the state, the constitution and the homeland,” he added.
Al-Assad took over in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez, who had seized power in 1970 in a bloodless military coup.
His re-election by landslide had no doubt. Al-Assad won 95.1% of the vote in the election, in which officials said turnout was 78.6% of the 18 million registered voters. There were no independent monitors for the one-day vote.
The competition was symbolic, with two little-known candidates running against al-Assad. In previous 2014 polls, he had garnered about 89% of the vote.
His new term begins with the country still devastated by ten years of war that killed hundreds of thousands and plunged into a worsening economic crisis.
Nearly half of Syria’s pre-war population is displaced or living in neighboring countries or Europe as refugees. The war has wiped out tens of thousands and devastated the country’s infrastructure.
The United Nations estimates that more than 80% of Syrians live below the poverty line. The Syrian currency falls freely and basic services and resources have been scarce or offered at exorbitant parallel market prices.
Fighting has slowed sharply, but parts of Syria remain out of government control and foreign troops and armed groups are deployed in different parts of the country.
The conflict that began in 2011 began after the government suppressed peaceful protests, turning opposition to the al-Assad family’s decades-old government into an armed rebellion.
Al-Assad, a target of expanding sanctions and isolated by the West, is backed by Iran and Russia, which sent troops and aid that have propped him up in the fight against rebel groups.
The European and American governments blame Al-Assad and his aides for most of the atrocities of the war. The president calls his armed opposition “terrorists”, while UN-led talks to end the conflict have made no progress.
U.S. and European officials have questioned the legitimacy of the election, saying it violated UN resolutions to resolve the conflict, that it has no international control and is not representative of all Syrians.
Despite a ceasefire agreement established since last year, a war monitor and rescue workers reported that the government attacked a village in the last rebel enclave in northwestern Syria that killed at least five , including two girls and their grandmother.
The White Helmets, or Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer search and rescue group operating in rebel parts of Syria, said two volunteers were injured in the bombing of Sarja, a village in Idlib province.
Russia and regime forces continue to attack civilians and rescue teams # Syria and commit more killings. So far, five civilians have been killed and many others injured, including two # White Helmets, after orientation #Series village a #Idlib this morning. pic.twitter.com/T0FVmn7BHv
– The white helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) July 17, 2021
Violence has been on the rise in the enclave in recent weeks as government troops move closer to regaining control of the territory, where nearly four million people live.
The truce was negotiated in 2020 between Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition and has troops in the area, and Russia. At that time, he stopped a crushing air and ground campaign by the government, backed by Russia, aimed at reclaiming the region.
UNICEF said 512 children were killed in fighting last year in Syria, most in the northwest where there are 1.7 million vulnerable children, many of whom have fled violence several times.