Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a new seven-year term as President of Syria for the third time on Wednesday, media reports. "I pledge to respect the constitution and protect the people of Syria," he said during a live broadcast on Syrian television at a red carpet ceremony held at the presidential palace in Damascus.
The presidential election was held last month in areas of central and northern Syria that still remain under state control by approximately 88.7 percent. Assad defeated two other candidates that were seen by some as puppets rather than actual opponents.
Assad’s victory goes as proof of his grip on power and people’s support despite Syria being more than three years into civil war, while his opposition, namely the National Coalition, called the election as nothing but a “farce” even before it actually took place. US Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen later on echoed this opinion.
Syrian president took the oath by swearing on the Koran before the country's parliamentarians, around 40 months into a civil war that is estimated to have already killed over 170,000 people.
"Syrians, three years and four months have passed since some cried 'freedom'," he announced, reminding everyone of the start of a March 2011 riot that demanded his resignation.
"They wanted a revolution, but you have been the real revolutionaries. I congratulate you for your revolution and for your victory," Assad said to his supporters.
"Those who lost their way can now see clearly the monstrous faces have been unveiled, the mask of freedom and the revolution has fallen."
Upon arrival at the presidential palace, Assad was met on a red carpet by a military band. Members of the Parliament and other guests cheered for Assad while he was sworn in and then gave a speech.
In total over 1,000 people were invited to attend the inauguration ceremony.