Homs voters support Assad amid ruins of war

"We say yes to President Bashar al-Assad," says this poster in one of Homs's former rebel strongholds.

On Wednesday (May 26), the city of Homs votes in the first election since Syria's ten-year war, during which it suffered severe damage - with the center and other neighborhoods ruined by air strikes and barrel bombs.

Om Ali, a mother of six, recounts the suffering of those years.

"We survived on chickpeas and wheat and water. We didn't do laundry like other people, we had no food or drink or anything. We were in a very bad situation."

But she'll vote for Assad, she says, 100%, with her blood.

She's far from alone. Assad's almost certain to win against the two other obscure candidates. His opponents and the West call the election a farce.

More posters on destroyed buildings encourage voter turn-out - as a "bullet in the chest of the aggressor," this one says.

Homs was a center of defiance against Assad, but security forces crushed the protests. Rebel groups took up arms and fighting spread through the city.

Mechanic Mohamed Khalaf fled his neighborhood of al-Waer for five years. But he's home, and having repaired his house and shop, he's voting for Assad too.

"How are we living? Like the rest of the world, we are are trying to manage. We are adapting to the situation. Maybe things will go back to what they were and God will help us with this economy."

The staunchly pro-Assad district of Nazha welcomes visitors with a billboard showing men who died fighting in the army.

Tailor Mohamed Shamlas lost his son Ali in the war.

It's clear who's getting his vote - as sitting beneath a poster of Ali and the president's late father, Hafez - he sings in praise of Bashar al-Assad.

"We will forget, by the grace of God. We have to. You have to live with me and I have to live with you, in a country that's a home for everyone."

Assad has all but crushed the insurgency against him, with the support of Russia and Iran.

But many have been unable to return to their homes in Homs and other cities, and the economy lies in tatters.