Syria to hold presidential election

Syria is holding a presidential election on Wednesday, with incumbent Bashar al-Assad widely expected to win a fourth term.

Two other candidates are also running, but they are little known. The vote will be held only in government-controlled regions.

Ten years have passed since government crackdowns on pro-democracy protests started a civil war. Assad has cornered anti-government forces with support from Russia and others.

The president, who has been in power for 21 years, is expected to use the prospective re-election to claim legitimacy of his rule.

But opposition forces and the United States are criticizing the election.

The United Nations also says the vote is not based on a Security Council resolution which calls for holding of free and fair elections.

A committee that includes representatives of the opposition was launched to draft a new constitution, but the process has stalled.

Analysts say the election may help further consolidate Assad's power base, and make a political solution for ending the civil war even more elusive.