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Bashar Assad elected president of Syria

HDN | 7/12/2000 12:00:00 AM |

The overwhelming support 97.29% for Bashar is not surprising in a referendum where most people marked their ballots 'yes' in front of the officials running the voting Damascus - The Associated Press Bashar Assad has been elected president of Syria with 97.29 percent of the national vote, Interior Minister Mohammed Harba said on Tuesday. The son of the late President Hafez Assad was the only candidate in a referendum held Monday amid displays of mass loyalty organized by the ruling Baath Party. Bashar

  • The overwhelming support 97.29% for Bashar is not surprising in a referendum where most people marked their ballots 'yes' in front of the officials running the voting
  • Damascus - The Associated Press

    Bashar Assad has been elected president of Syria with 97.29 percent of the national vote, Interior Minister Mohammed Harba said on Tuesday.

    The son of the late President Hafez Assad was the only candidate in a referendum held Monday amid displays of mass loyalty organized by the ruling Baath Party.

    Bashar Assad is expected to be inaugurated on July 17, becoming the first president to succeed his father in an Arab republic.

    Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam has said there will be a Cabinet reshuffle after the inauguration.

    Interior Minister Harba said that of the 9.44 million eligible voters, about 8.93 million cast their ballots, making for a turnout of 94.59 percent.

    He told a news conference in the Interior Ministry that a total of 8.69 million voters had said "yes," 22,439 voters said "no," and 219,000 votes were spoilt.

    The minister announced the results sitting below two large portraits of Hafez and Bashar Assad. Before delivering the figures, Harba gave a long speech about the late president, his eye-doctor son and what he called Syrian democracy.

    "When our people, from all walks of life, trooped to cast their votes yesterday, they were expressing their loyalty and their allegiance to Dr. Assad .... and the democratic system left behind by the great deceased leader," he said.

    "The unanimous saying of 'yes' by all Syrians, inside and outside, is a manifestation of the political maturity of our people," Harba said.

    He was asked about reports that some people were coerced into voting.

    "The masses that have been crying since President Hafez Assad's death, have they been forced to shed tears? ... Such reports do not harm Syria," Harba said.

    He finished by saying he was leaving to present the results to the speaker of parliament as required by the constitution.

    The outcome of the referendum, held exactly one month after Hafez Assad's death on June 10, had never been in doubt. Hafez Assad had ruled Syria with an iron-grip for 30 years and had designated Bashar as his successor.

    Hafez Assad received between 99.6 and 99.99 percent of the vote in his presidential referendums which, like Monday's, were orchestrated by the Baath Party.

    At polling stations across Syria, people pricked their fingers with needles Monday and marked their ballots with blood in demonstrations of support. Posters of Assad father and son and banners hailing their virtues were strung across the streets of Damascus and other towns.

    The main theme of the referendum campaign had been that Bashar Assad was the only Syrian capable of continuing his father's policies. The autocratic Hafez Assad brought stability to Syria after years of political upheaval and coups.

    The referendum was the last in a series of steps that Hafez Assad left behind to ensure the succession of his son, a former doctor with little political experience.

    Within hours of Assad's death on June 10, parliament amended the constitution to lower the minimum age for a president from 40 to 34, Bashar Assad's age. In the days that followed, Bashar Assad was promoted from colonel to general and declared commander of the armed forces. The Baath party, which has enjoyed a monopoly in Syria since 1963, made him its leader and nominated him as its presidential candidate.

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