Massive rallies were held across Syria on Saturday as the country geared up to give President Bashar Assad another seven-year mandate in a national referendum on Sunday, in which he is the sole candidate.
Victory celebrations were already being held in government-sponsored tents on the streets of Damascus, where people distributed sweets and listened to speeches glorifying Assad.
The rallies are being organised by the ruling Baath party.
The look of Syria is sharply different from a few years ago, with trendy cafes, restaurants, private universities and banks, as well as large construction projects backed by millionaire Syrians and Gulf Arabs.
But as Syria prepares to grant Assad another mandate, critics point to rampant corruption, mass arrests and a series of foreign policy blunders that have served to vilify and further isolate Syria in the eyes of the world.
They say Assad has alienated neighbours like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, strengthened his alliance with Iran, and allowed relations with Lebanon to deteriorate to the lowest level in decades.
And while Assad, who took office when his father died in 2000, has taken small steps to loosen the totalitarian grip of his father's rule and the state control over the economy, he has failed to make good on promised political reforms and continues to jail his critics.
Recent parliamentary elections were contested without an opposition and criticised by opponents as a sham.
The national assembly's first task was unanimously nominating Assad for a second term.
Assad, a British-trained eye doctor, came to power a year before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, which were followed by the invasion of Afghanistan and Syria's neighbour, Iraq, posing a direct threat to the Syrian regime.
His troops were forced out of Lebanon following the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
His political troubles are likely to be compounded once the UN establishes an international tribunal to try Hariri's killers, something the Syrian government continues to resist.
Syria's opponents in Lebanon believe the tribunal will prove their accusations Syria was behind the killing, which Damascus denies.
Still, Assad has been able to consolidate his rule and is very much in control.
The international isolation has eased, with visitors to the Syrian capital by European and US officials, including one by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In early May, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held talks with Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.