U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf described Syria's presidential election Tuesday as "a disgrace," saying President Bashar al-Assad "has no more credibility today that he did yesterday."
"Detached from reality and devoid of political participation, the Assad regime-staged election today continues a 40-year family legacy of violent suppression that brutally crushes political dissent and fails to fulfill Syrians' aspirations for peace and prosperity," said Harf.
Syrians voted in an election that is expected to give Assad a landslide victory for a new seven-year term, as a deadly civil war continues across the country.
Syrian state television showed Assad supporters waving flags and portraits of the president as they waited in long lines to cast their ballots. Voting is only taking place in government-controlled parts of the country.
The Syrian opposition and its Western allies have denounced the election, which pits Assad against two little-known, government-approved candidates.
Syria's Presidential Election
- First multicandidate presidential election in decades
- Bashar al-Assad is running for a third term
- Two other candidates: Maher Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri
- 15 million people are eligible to vote
- Voting is only taking place in areas under government control
- More than 9,000 polling stations are set up
- Some stations have pins so voters can prick their fingers to mark ballots in blood
- Opposition has rejected the election
Syria's prime minister, Wael al-Halqi, said Tuesday's election will put the country on a path to recovery. The Syrian interior ministry said more than 15 million people were eligible to vote.
Opposition Syrian National Council spokesman Khalid Saleh said the results will have no real impact on the future of the Syria.
"Well, Assad still controls the army, still controls intelligence services, still controls to some extent the foreign militias," said Saleh. "So, even if one of those two other candidates wins, they have no way to run anything in the country. Assad has been very clear. He will control this country. He will kill anybody who's in opposition to him. And he will do whatever it takes to remain in power."
Rebel fighters have battled for more than three years to oust Assad from office.
Violence continued to rage Tuesday on the outskirts of Damascus with rebels firing mortars and government warplanes targeting opposition areas.
Assad has been in power since 2000, when he became president following the death of his father, and was the only candidate on the ballot when he won his second term in 2007.
His forces carried out a crackdown against peaceful anti-government protests in March 2011, which came along with the wave of so-called Arab Spring demonstrations that were sweeping across the region.
The fighting escalated into a war that activists say has killed more than 160,000 people. The United Nations says 2.8 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the conflict, while 6.5 million others are displaced within Syria.
International efforts to resolve the conflict, including a face-to-face peace conference earlier this year, have yielded little result.