Assad casts his vote in blood-stained ballot

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Assad casts his vote in blood-stained ballot

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Pictures from Syrian state TV showed a smiling President Bashar al Assad and his wife voting in a referendum that could keep him in power until 2028.

Despite ongoing clashes around the country, the ballot has gone ahead with Assad’s supporters flocking to polling stations.

But critics say the vote is a farce given the state of virtual civil war and question the promise the referendum will give power to the people.

Political analyst Thabet Salem said: “In the old constitution the party was the leader of the country and society so all the authority had to be given to the party. Now the same thing happened but all the authority is being given to the president.”

Damascus says the constitution will lead to multi-party elections in three months – the opposition has a different take.

Fawaz Zakri from the Syrian National Council said: “This proposed new constitution gives Assad the opportunity to be in power for two times seven years and this is not acceptable to the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition at all.”

Syrian media has been broadcasting images from polling stations in the capital and interviews with voters praising the consitution.

More images apparently showed voting in Homs – one of the flashpoints of the anti-Assad movement where bombardments continued throughout the day.