Bashar al-Assad sworn in for a fourth seven-year term as Syria’s president

Photo: AP

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday was sworn in for a fourth seven-year term, after a controversial May election dismissed by Europe and the US as "neither free nor fair", news wires reported. In May he won 95.1% of valid votes that were cast in the election held in government-controlled areas, according to official figures. Assad's father Hafez al-Assad led Syria for some 30 years.

With the help of Iran and Russia, al-Assad has retaken control of more than 60% of the country. The rebels still hold some areas in north and north-western Syria, while Kurds rule areas in the north-east.

Assad was sworn in on the constitution and the Koran in the presence of more than 600 guests, including ministers, businessmen, academics and journalists, organisers said.

The elections "have proven the strength of popular legitimacy that the people have conferred to the state," 55-year-old Assad said, in his inauguration speech. They "have discredited the declarations of Western officials on the legitimacy of the state, the constitution and the homeland," he added.

Al-Assad called on his opponents in exile to return to their homeland. “I repeat my call to whoever has been manipulated and bet on the nation’s fall and collapse of the state to return to the homeland,” he said.

Syria’s dire economic situation has been compounded by Western sanctions on the government, as well as the global pandemic.

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