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May 11, 2014 AT 5:26 AM
On billboards and in posters taped to car windows, new portraits of President Bashar Assad filled the streets of Damascus on Sunday as Syria officially opened its presidential campaign despite a crippling civil war that has devastated the country and left large chunks of territory outside of government control. A leading opposition figure :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 another seven-year term, a veneer of electoral legitimacy. The government, meanwhile, has touted the vote as the political solution to the conflict.