DAMASCUS, Syria - President Bashar al-Assad declared his candidacy Monday for a new seven-year term in June presidential elections, more than three years into a revolt against his rule that has killed more than 150,000 people, uprooted nine million, and touched off a humanitarian crisis.
While Assad had long suggested he would seek reelection, the official announcement put to rest any illusions that the man who has led Syria since 2000 has any intention of relinquishing power or finding a political solution to the conflict. Rather, he appears emboldened by a series of military victories in recent months that have strengthened his once tenuous grip on power.
The Syrian opposition and its Western allies have denounced the June 3 election as a sham designed to lend Assad, who is widely expected to win, a patina of electoral legitimacy. It remains unclear how the government intends to hold a credible vote when the country is engulfed in a civil war.
Vast areas of the country, including most of northern Syria, lie outside government control. Hundreds of thousands of people live in territory that is either contested, held by rebels, or blockaded by pro-government forces.
The government has presented the ballot box as the solution to the conflict: If the people choose Assad, the fight should end; if Assad loses, he will step aside.
Assad officially registered his candidacy Monday, said Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham on state television. The statement was followed by blaring nationalistic music praising God. State TV also ran a brief biography of Assad, and quoted him as asking Syrians not to resort to celebratory gunfire.
So far, six others have declared their candidacies, but analysts dismiss them as little more than stooges to provide a veneer of democratic legitimacy.