Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won a fourth term in office with 95.1% of the votes in a presidential election that saw a massive turnout.
Head of Parliament Hammouda Sabbagh announced the results at a news conference on Thursday, saying voter turnout was around 78%, with more than 14 million Syrians taking part, Reuters reported.
The landslide win delivers Assad, 55, seven more years in power.
“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,” he wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page.
Assad was running against two candidates, Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, the head of an opposition party and former deputy cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah.
Marei came second by winning 3.3%, or more than 470,000 of the ballots, while Abdullah secured 1.5% of the vote, or some 214,000 ballots.
Rallies with thousands of people waving Syrian flags and holding pictures of Assad while singing and dancing took place all day Thursday in celebration of the election.
The Syrian government said the election on Wednesday shows Syria is functioning normally despite a foreign-backed conflict that erupted in 2011 and killed hundreds of thousands of people and drove 11 million people from their homes.
Assad, whose father Hafez used to serve the Syrian people in the same position, first won incumbency in 2000 following his father’s death and provisional presidency of Abdul Halim Khaddam.
Assad’s biggest challenge, now that the government has regained control of around 70% of the country, will be to improve the economy.
Important step toward peace
Iran’s Foreign Ministry in a statement on Friday congratulated Syria for the “successful” vote and Assad’s reelection.
It said Syrians’ massive turnout is an important step in establishing peace and stability and the reconstruction of Syria.
Iran respects the Syrian people’s decision, supports the Syrian nation’s right for determining its fate without foreign intervention, and congratulates Assad’s victory, the statement said, according to IRNA.
“A decisive victory was won by the incumbent head of state,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“We view the elections as a sovereign affair of the Syrian Arab Republic and an important step towards strengthening its internal stability,” it added, AFP reported.
On the eve of the election, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was “neither free nor fair”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry described Western statements calling into question the validity of the elections as “another attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria with the aim of destabilizing it”.
“No one has the right to dictate to the Syrians when and under what conditions they should elect their head of state,” it said.
China also on Friday congratulated Assad on winning a fourth term in an election.
“China and Syria are traditional good friends,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday, as he extended the Asian giant’s well-wishes to Assad, Reuters reported.
“China firmly supports Syria in its safeguarding of its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” he added.