Syrians vote amid
of war

Waving photos of their leader and dancing with flags, tens of thousands of Syrians pledged renewed allegiance to President Bashar Assad as they voted across government-controlled parts of the country in a presidential election decried by the opposition as a charade.

Some stamped their ballots with blood after pricking their fingers with pins supplied by the government in a symbolic act of allegiance and patriotism. Others chose to vote in full sight of other voters and television cameras rather than go behind a curtain.

Voters wore lapel pins with Assad’s picture and said re-electing him would give the Syrian leader more legitimacy to find a solution to the devastating three-year conflict that activists say has killed more than 160,000 people, about a third of whom were civilians.

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Even as crowds of Assad’s supporters flocked to the polls in Damascus, the sounds of war were inescapable. The dull sounds of explosions reverberated in the distance as pro-government forces and rebels battled in nearby rural towns and ashy plumes of grey smoke marked the skyline. Several mortar hits were reported in the capital, although the voting was largely peaceful.

The balloting is only taking place in government-controlled areas and Assad’s win is all but a foregone conclusion.

Former army chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has won Egypt’s presidential elections by a landslide victory of 96.9 per cent of the vote, with turnout of 47.45 per cent, officials announced.

Anwar el-Assi, the Election Commission’s president, said Mr el-Sissi received 23.78 million votes, while his sole rival, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, got 3 per cent of the vote.