Syrians living in government-controlled areas voted on Sunday in the first local elections since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule erupted in 2011, agencies reported.

In the seven years since the last vote was held, more than 360,000 people have been killed, millions more have been forced to flee, and the economy has been crippled.

Syrian troops have seized control of around two-thirds of the country as a result of a series of victories, most recently around Damascus and in the country’s south.

More than 6,550 voting centers opened at 7am local time across government-held parts of the country, state media reported.

Officials said more than 40,000 candidates were vying for 18,478 seats on local administrative councils.