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DAMASCUS, June 04. /ITAR-TASS/. Syria's presidential elections, which have been held for the first-ever time on an alternative basis, ended at midnight. Due to a very high turnout of voters, polling, which began at seven a.m. Tuesday, was prolonged for five hours.
The present Head of State Bashar Assad is indisputably in the lead. Together with his wife Asma, he cast his vote at a polling station in the secondary school named after national hero Naim Maasarani. The school is located not far far from the presidential residence in Damascus.
Another candidate running for presidency, Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, a Communist member of parliament from Aleppo, went to a polling station set up in the parliament palace in Salhiya Quarter. Just like Assad, he refrained from remarks to the press.
The third candidate, Hasan Abdel Illahi al-Nuri, a Liberal, cast his vote at a polling station at Sheraton Hotel. He told journalists that the elections being held in Syria "proceed in a democratic and transparent way". "Syria is becoming a different country where pluralism is taking root and a different opinion gets acceptable," he emphasized.
The polling results will be announced not earlier than in 24 hours' time and only after full counting of votes, Hisham al-Shaar, Head of the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections (electoral commission), told Itar-Tass in an exclusive interview. "Preliminary and final results will be announced simultaneously. No tentative results will be made public," he said, pointing out that no exit polls are practised in this country.
The polling process was monitored by observers from 30 friendly-to-Syria countries, including those from Russia. The Russian observers have already stated that they recognise the elections in Syria as legitimate, Alexei Alexandrov, leader of the Russian delegation and First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Legislation of the Federation Council upper house of the Russian parliament, told Itar-Tass in an interview.
"We have no doubts about legitimacy of these polls," he stressed, pointing out that an appropriate Act would be signed by the Russian observers.
"Syria does everything to get aligned with the world's democratic law-governed states. There are no doubts that he (Bashar Assad) was confronted by serious politicians who had every ground to expect a realistic win. It is obvious that President Assad enjoys special prestige, and the people's love for him is felt. From legal and objective points of view, the elections are held impeccably. The existing minor reproaches will not influence the final results," the observer said.
"Three years of struggle against Saudis and Qatar have not subdued us. They did not even dream of democracy of ours," Muhammad Faiz, a voter, told Itar-Tass at a polling station. He put a tick beneath the portrait of Bashar Assad one of the three candidates listed in the ballot-paper. Following that, he lowered his index finger of his right hand into a jar with ink. The ink traces rule out the possibility of a repeat vote.
Ridvan Awan, a member of the electoral commission, said, "Turnout of voters has been high. Polling has been held in an open and honest atmosphere". Itar-Tass correspondents have been able to see that for themselves upon visiting unimpededly about 15 polling stations in Damascus and watching the entire procedure for polling.
Armed militants' attempts to frustrate the polling proved to no avail. People on the streets of the Syrian capital were joyful and merry on the polling day.