Zee Media Bureau
Beirut: Bashar al-Assad won 88.7 percent of the vote in Syria`s Presidential Election, Parliament speaker Mohammad al-Laham announced on Wednesday.
With this much-expected victory, Assad secured a third term in office despite 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.
Even before he spoke, celebratory gunfire and fireworks erupted in Damascus in anticipation of the news. Three people were killed in the capital and 10 were wounded by the gunfire, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Nearly an hour after the announcement, heavy shooting could still be heard, despite an appeal by the victorious Assad that "joy and enthusiasm" could not justify the danger caused by the celebratory fire.
State television showed crowds cheering and dancing in Damascus, Qamishli in the Kurdish northeast of the country, the Druze city of Suweida in the south and the contested city of Aleppo in the north.
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, fewer than the number of spoilt ballots.
Tens of thousands of Syrians had voted in government-controlled cities and towns on Tuesday to give Assad a new seven-year mandate, with some even marking the ballots with their own blood.
The carefully-choreographed election was ignored and even mocked in opposition-held areas of Syria where fighting persisted, with some rebels derisively dropping their shoes in a phony ballot box in a show of disgust. Western leaders also called it a sham.
A victory for Assad is likely to bolster his base of support at home and provide further evidence that he has no intention of relinquishing power, making a protracted conflict the likely outcome in fighting that has already lasted three years.
Voting took place only in government-controlled areas, excluding much of northern and eastern Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians abroad voted last week, although many of the more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees across the region either abstained or were excluded by law.
There were ostentatious shows of support for the 48-year-old Assad, who has ruled Syria since 2000, when he took over after the death of his father, Hafez.
The Interior Ministry said there were 15.8 million eligible voters, both inside and outside Syria, and that 9,600 voting centers were set up around the country.
(With Agency inputs)