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DAMASCUS, June 03. /ITAR-TASS/. Thousands of people flocked to voting stations in Syria on Tuesday morning to elect the country's president. "Three years of war have not broken us. We're voting for the future," Toma Al-Jawabra told ITAR-TASS as he checked the box under the portrait of the incumbent head of state Bashar Assad, one of the three candidates on the ballot paper.
Then he dipped his finger into an inkstand. An ink print rules out a second voting.
"The turnout is high. The election is running in an open and honest atmosphere," Election Commission member Ridwan Awwan said.
A group of youths with national flags gathered before the voting station in the building of the Syria's General Federation of Trade Unions. They are dancing and singing songs in honor of the incumbent president.
Syria announced Tuesday a day-off, and students' examinations have been suspended.
Voting will last until 7.00 pm, but it might be extended till midnight.
Assad is competing against two little-known rival politicians: a Communist deputy from Aleppo Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, and businessman, former minister Hasan Abdel Illahi an-Nuri. The winner needs 50% plus one vote, otherwise a runoff election is held.
Some 15.8 million people have been registered as voters. Syria had a population of 22.4 million people (as of 2012). Damascus and Aleppo have set up 5,235 voting stations. Their total number across the country reaches 9,601.