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Tags: Syria | Russia | Assad

Russia Praises Syrian Election, Criticizes Western Reaction

Russia Praises Syrian Election, Criticizes Western Reaction
Syrian President Bashar Assad and first lady Asma Assad vote in the country's presidential election at a polling station in Maliki on June 3.

By    |   Thursday, 05 June 2014 08:52 AM EDT

MOSCOW — Russia said on Thursday observers had found the Syrian presidential election in which Bashar Assad retained power to have been fair, free and transparent, and criticized the reaction of nations that denounced the vote.

"Moscow sees the vote as an important event that safeguards the continued functioning of state institutions in Syria," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. He said the "politicized reaction" of some nations "cannot fail to cause disillusionment".

Assad has won a new seven-year term with nearly 90 percent of the vote but Washington said the "non-election" changed nothing and activists said it would spell only more war.

Critics charged that many of those who voted did so more out of fear than commitment to Assad, whose family has ruled Syria with a rod of iron for four decades.

British Foreign Secretary of State William Hague described the election as an "insult." "Assad lacked legitimacy before this election, and he lacks it afterwards."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the election a "great big zero."

"With respect to the elections that took place, the so-called elections, the elections are non-elections," Kerry said on a lighting visit to neighboring Lebanon on Wednesday.

He said "nothing has changed" as a result of the poll and urged Assad's foreign backers to take action to bring an end to the three-year conflict that has left more than 162,000 people dead.

"I particularly call on those nations directly supporting the Assad regime ... I call on them — Iran, Russia, and I call on Hezbollah, based right here in Lebanon — to engage in the legitimate effort to bring this war to an end," he said.

"It's unacceptable to ignore the opinion of millions of Syrians who... came to polling stations and made a choice in the interests of the future of the country," Lukashevich said at a televised briefing.

"In Moscow the vote is seen as an important event that ensures the continued function of state institutions in Syria according to the constitution of this sovereign country," he said.

"We have no basis to cast doubt on the legitimacy of these elections," Lukashevich said, while acknowledging that "in these conditions, they cannot be considered 100 percent perfect from the point of view of democratic standards."</p><p>"At least Russian observers came to the conclusion that they took place in a transparent atmosphere, despite all the complex security conditions in this country, and they noted a very high turnout," added Lukashevich.</p><p>Russia felt "disappointment" at the "shallow politicised reaction" to the polls from "certain international partners," the foreign ministry spokesman said.

Tens of thousands took to the streets in government-held areas even before the results were announced on Wednesday evening, waving portraits of Assad and the official Syrian flag.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in the capital and in loyalist areas across Syria. At least 10 people were killed as the bullets fell back to earth, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In opposition-held areas where no election was held on Tuesday, activists reacted with the Arab Spring slogan of 2011 that has been the rally cry of their uprising — "The people want the fall of the regime."

Pro-government newspapers all carried front-page photographs of the re-elected president. Images of Assad in suit and tie, or more rarely military uniform, filled the programming of state television.

The ruling Baath party's newspaper vowed that Syrians would show the same steadfastness against rebel attack in rebuilding their country that they displayed on polling day.

"After the historic vote, Syrians will accomplish a military, political and social mission, as well as the reconstruction of the country, by defying the mortars that are launched every day by the terrorists," Al-Baath said in an editorial.

Some 11.6 million of the 15.8 million eligible voters turned out in government-held areas, according to official figures, despite attacks that killed 24 people on polling day, according to the Observatory.

Russia earlier called for the speedy appointment of a new UN envoy to resume peace efforts after Lakhdar Brahimi, who brokered two rounds of abortive talks between the government and the opposition earlier this year, stepped down over the weekend saying his mediation had reached a stalemate.

Brahimi had infuriated Damascus by criticizing Tuesday's election as an obstacle to his peace efforts.

But Moscow has in turn angered the West by vetoing four draft UN Security Council resolutions in defense of its Damascus ally.

Opposition activists acknowledged wearily that the election was likely to prolong the conflict that has devastated their country and driven nearly half the population from their homes and sparked an exodus of nearly three million refugees abroad.

Speaking to AFP from Turkey, an activist who spent nearly two years trapped under army siege in Syria's third city Homs said he believed in a peaceful solution, but that Assad's win made the prospects remoter than ever.

"Sadly the election means that the fighting and bloodshed will also continue, and no one knows for how long, while the refugees will stay in the camps," said the activist who identified himself only as Thaer.

"The truth is that, even though everyone wants a political solution, that cannot happen with Assad in power... The war will continue, and the Syrians will continue to kill each other."


Russia said on Thursday observers had found the Syrian presidential election in which Bashar Assad retained power to have been fair, free and transparent, and criticized the reaction of nations that denounced the vote.
Syria, Russia, Assad
Thursday, 05 June 2014 08:52 AM
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