UPDATED: Syrians go to the polls in election that Assad is set to win

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Polling stations opened on Wednesday across Syria in a presidential election that is set to usher Bashar al-Assad into a fourth term in office.

The government says the election shows Syria is functioning normally, despite the decade-old war. But the opposition and Western nations view the exercise as a farce to rubber-stamp Assad’s grip on power. 

Wednesday’s presidential election in Syria will not be free or fair, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States said in a statement on Tuesday, criticising leader Bashar al-Assad.

“We … wish to make clear that Syria’s May 26 presidential election will neither be free nor fair,” the statement said. “We support the voices of all Syrians, including civil society organisations and the Syrian opposition, who have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate.”

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad cast his vote on Wednesday in the former rebel stronghold of Douma where a suspected chemical weapons attack in 2018 prompted Western air strikes.

The government says the election shows Syria is functioning normally despite a decade-old conflict. The fighting has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million people – about half the country’s population – from their homes.

“Syria is not what they were trying to market, one city against the other and sect against the other or civil war, today we are proving from Douma that the Syrian people are one,” Assad said after voting.

Photo: A woman sits next to a picture of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights. EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI