Syria set a presidential election for June 3 on Monday, preparing the ground for leader Bashar al-Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power days after he said the war was turning in his favour.
The three-year-old rebellion against Assad’s rule has killed more than 150,000 people, forced millions to flee their homes and seen the government lose control over swathes of territory. Hundreds more died on Sunday and Monday. A leading Syrian opposition group said on Monday the election showed the president was divorced from reality. Western and Gulf Arab countries that back Assad’s opponents had called plans for the vote a “parody of democracy” and said it would wreck efforts to negotiate a peace settlement. UN-backed talks in Geneva collapsed in February with both sides far from agreement.