Saddam Hussein won almost every Iraqi voter's endorsement to rule for seven more years, according to his government, which whipped up street demonstrations Monday in support of the isolated and hard-pressed leader.
Analysts believe that Hussein used the presidential referendum on Sunday to stir up nationalism in the country of 20 million and distract the nation's attention from the defection of a top official, a devastated economy and sharp criticism from the United Nations.
Hussein, the sole candidate, won 99.96% of the votes, said Ezzat Ibrahim, the man in charge of the balloting. Of 8,402,321 people eligible to vote, 8,357,560, or 99.5%, cast ballots--8,348,700 of which favored Hussein, the government said. There were 5,808 spoiled ballots.
Meanwhile Monday, in Washington, the State Department rejected the referendum.
Spokesman Nicholas Burns called it "a sham" and "a mockery" and an attempt by Hussein to "crown himself" for the next seven years.
Noting the outcome was foreordained, Burns said, "We did not wait up late last night for the returns to come in from [the Iraqi port of] Basra."
The United States led a multinational coalition that drove Iraqi invasion forces out of Kuwait in 1991.