ALEPPO, Syria, June 3 (UPI) -- Syrians took to the polls Tuesday to vote in the presidential election where the outcome is almost guaranteed in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
His two opponents, Maher al-Hajjar, a legislator from Aleppo, and Hassan al-Nouri, a 54-year-old American-educated businessman, have been dismissed by Western counties as props in a "farce" of an election. Both Hajjar and Nouri have avoided criticizing Assad's rule directly.
"My chances [of winning] are not as good as President Assad, of course," Nouri told the Telegraph. "The people in Syria are calling for stability and security, and to fight terrorism. They want military leadership and President Assad is doing well in this."
Hajjar said the opposing views do not extend far in Syrian politics.
"The alternative views in Syria can never be built on anything but the national principles of the Syrian people. The national principles are fixed and it's impossible for any political candidate, any entity, any party, any individual to present themselves and the Syrian people outside the framework of these principles," said Hajjar. "When I speak about specific national principles and Bashar al-Assad, the current president of the Syrian state, in that he has remained steadfast. This expresses the view of the entire Syrian nation. Nobody can offer an alternative to these principles."
While Assad has the streets and cities papered with campaign posters and "get out the vote" drives, both Hajjar and Nouri have minimal campaign presence.
The Syrian government said it expects 15 million people -- 68 percent of the population -- will be eligible to vote in regime-controlled areas on Tuesday.
"The presidential election is a genuine occasion for all Syrians to express ... their opinion, in a totally transparent way," said Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi.
Armed opposition groups have threatened to disrupt the election, warning activists to stay in their homes and off the streets to avoid violence in the already war-ravaged country.
"We warn the licentious regime that we are going to burn the land under their feet," said a document from the rebel groups.
Although the civil war has killed more than 150,000 and displaced millions, mostly at Assad's hand, analysts have said that he might still win even if the deck wasn't stacked in his favor.
"People on both sides are exhausted," admitted an unidentified opposition activist. "They just want this war to end, even if that means leaving the killer [Assad] in power."