DAMASCUS, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Overseas Syrians started to cast ballots Wednesday in the presidential election, the state SANA news agency reported.
Syrian nationals, mainly in Malaysia, China, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Venezuela, Jordan, Iran and Oman, would vote at Syrian embassies and consulates in these countries, the report said.
Those abroad can vote only if they have a valid passport, legal residence in the countries they live, and had legally left Syria.
The overseas voting was set Wednesday while the domestic one was scheduled for next Tuesday. The number of eligible voters in and outside Syria has exceeded 15 million.
The Interior Ministry said it had undertaken all necessary procedures and made all possible efforts to secure the voting in Syria.
Electoral campaigns started on May 11 and would end 24 hours ahead of the voting next Tuesday.
The three candidates -- incumbent President Bashar al-Assad, former minister Hassan al-Nouri and lawmaker Maher Hajjar -- have already put forth their electoral platforms that carry nearly the same political headlines with different visions on how to rescue the collapsed economy.
The election will be the first to be held in half a century. Previously, there were only referendums to support Assad or his late father Hafez al-Assad who was in office from 1971 to 2000. In 2007, the junior Assad won another seven years in office with 97 percent of the vote in a nationwide referendum on his leadership in which he was the only candidate.
The Syrian opposition and Western powers have dismissed the 2014 voting as a farce. Most of the European countries and many Arab countries said they would not allow the voting process to be carried out on their territories.
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In pictures: Syrian refugee family in Lebanon's camp