World Bulletin/News Desk
President Bashar al-Assad secured re-election by a landslide, Syria's parliamentary speaker said on Wednesday, in a vote dismissed as a sham by his opponents and held amid a raging civil war which grew out of protests against his rule.
"I declare the victory of Dr Bashar Hafez al-Assad as president of the Syrian Arab Republic with an absolute majority of the votes cast in the election," Laham said in a televised address from his office in the Syrian parliament.
Syria's constitutional court earlier said that turnout in Tuesday's election and a previous round of voting for Syrian expatriates and refugees stood at 73 percent.
Assad's foes have ridiculed the election, saying the two relatively unknown and state-approved challengers offered no real alternative to Assad. Former minister Hassan al-Nouri got 4.3 percent of the vote while parliamentarian Maher Hajjar secured 3.2 percent, less than the number of spoilt ballots.
They also said that no credible poll could be held in the midst of a conflict which has killed 160,000 people, driven millions from their homes and left swathes of northern and eastern Syria beyond Assad's control.
"These elections are illegitimate and undermine the political efforts to find a solution to this horrific conflict," the European Union said in a statement.
The United States, which has repeatedly said Assad lost his legitimacy when he responded with force to an outbreak of protests more than three years ago, said the vote changed nothing.
"With respect to the elections that took place, the so-called elections, the elections are non-elections, the elections are a great big zero," Secretary of State John Kerry said during a brief visit to neighbouring Lebanon.
"They are meaningless, and they are meaningless because you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have the ability to vote, where they don't have the ability to contest the election, and they have no choice."
Leaders of the Group of Seven nations will dismiss Syrian elections as a sham and call on President Bashar al-Assad to go, according to the latest draft of a communique to be released after talks late on Wednesday.
"We denounce the 3 June sham presidential election: there is no future for Assad in Syria," the G7 draft, obtained by Reuters, said.
Assad's opponents have dismissed the election as a charade, saying his two relatively unknown challengers offered no real alternative and that no poll held in the midst of civil war could be considered credible.
"We strongly condemn the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights and indiscriminate artillery shelling and aerial bombardment by the Syrian regime," the G7 draft said.
"There is evidence that extremist groups have also perpetrated grave human rights abuses. All those responsible for such abuses must be held to account."
Syrian officials had described the predicted victory as vindication of Assad's three-year campaign against the rebels and a landmark for democracy - the first time in half a century that Syria has held a contested presidential election.
Previous presidential votes had been referenda to approve the appointment of Bashar and his father Hafez al-Assad, who ruled for 30 years until his death in 2000. Hafez never won less than 99 percent, while his son scored 97 percent in 2007.
Assad's victory came a week after former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi secured 96.9 percent of votes in Egypt's presidential election. Turnout in Egypt was 47 percent, the country's election commission said.