DAMASCUS: Almost 90 percent of voters approved Syria’s new constitution brought in after 11 months of anti-regime protests, the interior minister announced on Monday.
Mohamed Al-Shaar also told a news conference that turnout reached 57.4 percent of eligible voters, with 89.4 percent of the 8.376 million who cast their ballots in Sunday’s referendum saying “yes” to the new constitution.
“There has been a large turnout despite threats made by armed terrorist groups in some regions,” the minister said, using a term employed by the authorities for rebels.
People went to polling stations “despite campaigns by treacherous media to stop citizens from exercising their rights and undermine the democratic process that took place freely and transparently,” he added.
The opposition had called for a boycott of the referendum, while the United States described it as “laughable.”
Syrian dissidents and Western leaders dismissed as a farce Sunday’s vote, conducted in the midst of the country’s bloodiest turmoil in decades, although Assad says the new constitution will lead to multi-party elections within three months.
Officials put national voter turnout at close to 60 percent, but diplomats who toured polling stations in Damascus saw only a handful of voters at each location. On the same day, at least 59 people were killed in violence around the country.
Shaar said the referendum had allowed the Syrian people “to decide its future and to understand that this constitution will allow it to achieve its aspirations in all areas.”
In the rebel-held areas of Homs in central Syria and Idlib in the country’s northwest, “terrorists tried to obstruct this operation but only partially succeeded,” the minister said.
He said 753,000 people had voted against the new constitution, or 9 percent, and there were 133,000 invalid ballots.
The new text ends the legal basis for the five-decade stranglehold on power of the ruling Baath party but leaves huge powers in the hands of President Bashar Al-Assad who has faced a deadly revolt since last March.