Syrians vote in presidential elections

A Syrian woman casts her vote inside a polling station during the presidential election in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Photo: AP
Syrians voted Tuesday in a presidential election that is all but guaranteed to hand Bashar Assad another seven-year term.
The poll takes place three years into a civil war in which tens of thousands of people have died and millions more are displaced.
President Bashar al-Assad is widely expected to win a third seven-year term in office.
It is the first time in decades that more than one name has appeared on the ballot paper. The three candidates are incumbent President Bashar al-Assad, former minister Hassan al-Nouri and lawmaker Maher Hajjar.
The Assads have ruled Syria with for more than 40 years.
The Syrian opposition and its Western allies have denounced the election, which pits Assad against two little-known, government-approved candidates.
Syria\’s Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi urged people to vote, calling Tuesday a "historic day" for Syria that he said will put the country on the path to recovery.
Campaigning officially ended on Monday and workers across central Damascus removed banners, posters and pictures of the candidates.
Rebel fighters have battled for more than three years to oust Assad from office. 
He has been in power since 2000, when he became president following the death of his father. He was the only candidate on the ballot when he won his second term in 2007.
His forces carried out a crackdown against peaceful anti-government protests in March 2011, which came along with the wave of so-called Arab Spring demonstrations that were sweeping the region.
The interior ministry says there are 15.8 million eligible voters, both inside and outside Syria, and about 9,600 polling stations have been set up around the country.
However, voting will only take place in government-held territory, with many parts of the country either under rebel control or in areas being fought over.
Syrians living overseas cast their ballots last week.
Syrian nationals, mainly in Malaysia, China, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Venezuela, Jordan, Iran and Oman, voted at the Syrian embassies and consulates in these countries.
The election will be the first in half a century. Previously, there were only referendums to support Assad or his late father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office from 1971 to 2000.
The fighting escalated into a war that activists say has killed more than 160,000 people.  The United Nations says 2.8 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the conflict, while 6.5 million others are displaced within Syria.
Source: Agencies
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