Assad bid to be re-elected in Syria
President Bashar Assad has announced his candidacy for presidential elections in Syria, a race he is likely to win amid a raging civil war that began as an uprising against his rule.
The statement, made by Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham on state-run television, was quickly followed by broadcasts of nationalistic music praising God.
Assad, who has ruled the country since taking over from his father in 2000, was widely expected to run for a third seven-year term in office, although it remains unclear how the vote can take place in areas engulfed in fighting.
Six other contenders have entered the race, but they are mostly expected to give the the June 3 election a veneer of legitimacy, analysts say.
Following the announcement, state-run TV also ran a brief biography of Assad.
It quoted him as asking Syrians not to resort to celebratory gunfire and telling them that "we are now in the atmosphere of (democratic) elections in Syria for the first time in its contemporary history".
But activists said a call to elections - or the vote, if and when it is held - will not be enough to heal Syria's bitter war, now in its fourth year.
The conflict, which has killed over 150,000 people and displaced more than one-third of the population, began as largely peaceful demonstrations against Assad's rule in March 2011.
But it quickly turned into an armed uprising and a civil war.
"If he had announced this at the beginning of the revolution, it would have saved all that blood that was shed," said Abu Akram al-Shami, speaking over Skype from Damascus.
Al-Shami said he and other activists would ignore the election, adding that their war now was not just against Assad but aimed for his entire government to fall.
"It's about the whole regime. Even if, let's say, he left office, as things now stand his regime would continue," al-Shami said.