Government supporters stuffed ballot boxes and staged rallies inside polling stations in an election that President Bashar al-Assad is expected to use as a mandate to prosecute the civil war. Opponents of the regime inside and outside the country have dismissed the presidential election as a parody of democracy. As the voting proceeded on Tuesday, the nearly 40-month war continued without letup and the sky above Damascus was filled with the buzz of military aircraft carrying out bombing sorties against targets in rebel-held suburbs. The mood was a mixture of fear, intimidation and exuberance. The voting was held only in regime-controlled areas of the country. At polling stations in the capital Damascus and its suburbs, Assad supporters were seen casting handfuls of ballots for absent members of their families. At other stations, government workers arrived aboard buses and chanted adoring slogans before casting their votes for the 48-year-old president, who is locking in a third, seven-year term.
They were joined in their pro-Assad revelry by election workers and other voters. No independent election observers were present at the polling places.
Late Tuesday, the head of the election commission, Judge Hisham Shaar, announced that voting would be extended for five hours until midnight because of heavy turnout, which officials said had “exceeded all expectations.”
Judge Shaar said additional ballot boxes had been distributed in Damascus to cope with the crowds and that no voting irregularities had been recorded. By nightfall, however, the streets of the capital were largely empty of pedestrians for fear of rebel mortar attacks.
Full Article: Pro-Assad Voters Rally as Syria Holds Elections – WSJ.