President Bashar al-Assad says his election victory has given his regime fresh legitimacy, and sent a "strong message to the West - and the countries implicated in the war on Syria".

The Syrian government said Assad’s landslide victory proved that the Syrian people “are determined to choose their fate on their own and look to the future”. Assad was reinstated for another seven years, his third term in office, with 89 percent of votes cast.

Critics say the vote, in the midst of war, lacked legitimacy as people were only able to register their choice for president in government-controlled areas, or roughly half of the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry described the vote as a "great big zero", adding, "the conflict is the same, the terror is the same, the killing is the same."

Reacting to Kerry’s statement on Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the election proved that: "… any political solution in Syria begins and ends with president Doctor Bashar al-Assad. This is what the election says. There is an elected president with a new mandate of seven years, elected by millions."

So does it mean the international community will have to re-think the way it deals with the Syrian president? And how important is Hezbollah’s influence on the Syrian conflict?

Presenter: Sue Turton

Guests:

Ammar Waqqaf - a Syrian political activist, who advocates reform rather than a change in regime.

Jamal Wakim - a writer for Foreign Policy Journal, and author of the book: 'The Struggle of Major Powers Over Syria'.

James Denselow - a research associate at the Foreign Policy Centre, and a Middle East security analyst.

Source: Al Jazeera