London: Syrians in government-controlled areas of the war-torn country went to the polls yesterday to elect a president in a contest that has been condemned and shunned by opponents of Bashar Al Assad, but which is certain to extend his rule.
Assad and his wife, Asma, voted in a school in the Malki area of Damascus, amid heavy security measures. Assad’s two challengers — Maher Al Hajjar and Hassan Al Nouri — voted in the Sheraton hotel.
But in Aleppo, thousands of residents of rebel-held districts fled for the countryside before a day of intensive attacks by government helicopters, jets and artillery.
More than 15m Syrians were eligible to vote in 9,000 polling stations, but there were none in northern and eastern areas, which are in opposition hands.
In the late afternoon, voting was extended by five hours.
In the Bab Al Salam refugee camp on the Turkish border, Ibrahim al-Khalilm, 43, who lost both his legs in an air strike last year, said: “If Bashar al-Assad would give me my legs back, then I would vote. But I can’t bring my cousin, my brother and my uncle back either. All my life he will remain an enemy for me.” Elections cannot be held in pools of blood.”