Syrian President Bashar Assad took his oath of office for a new, seven-year term Wednesday afternoon in the Presidential Palace in Damascus, striking a defiant and victorious tone over the ongoing civil war in Syria.
"They did not a spare a dirty measure to use and they failed," Assad said in a speech after taking the oath. "Syrians with their votes forced the collapse of terrorist groups and their Syrian agents."
Assad was re-elected on June 3 , in an election widely dismissed as a sham by the West and Syrian opposition figures. Assad won 88.7 percent of the ballots cast, while voting didn't take place in areas engulfed in fighting.
Assad dismissed criticism of the election, pointing to the participation of the other candidates in the elections, a first for Syria.
"The Syrian people can give lessons in democracy," he said.
He also hailed the Syrian people's steadfastness in the face of what he described as a conspiracy against the country.
"The war launched against Syrians is a dirty war," he said. "Despite all the bloodshed, the Syrian people will not break."
While saying that many people had fled from the "terrorism of armed groups, " Assad said he was optimistic that they would be able to return.
The more than 3-year-old war in Syria has killed over 150,000 people and forced millions to seek refuge in neighboring countries. While the regime has had success in recent months in reclaiming key territory around Damascus, vast swaths of the country remain outside of government control, including territory in eastern Syria that has been claimed as a new caliphate by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.