BEIRUT - Syria set a presidential election for June 3 on Monday, preparing the ground for leader Bashar al-Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power days after he said the war was turning in his favour.

The three-year-old rebellion against Assad’s rule has killed more than 150,000 people, forced millions to flee their homes and seen the government lose control over swathes of territory. Hundreds more died on Sunday and Monday. A leading Syrian opposition group said on Monday the election showed the president was divorced from reality. Western and Gulf Arab countries that back Assad’s opponents had called plans for the vote a “parody of democracy” and said it would wreck efforts to negotiate a peace settlement. United Nations-backed talks in Geneva collapsed in February with both sides far from agreement - not least over the question of whether Assad should go. No date has been set for their resumption.

Monzer Akbik, chief of staff of the president’s office of the main Western-backed National Coalition opposition group, told Reuters the election was a sign Assad was unwilling to cooperate on finding a political solution to the conflict.

“This is a state of separation from reality, a state of denial. He didn’t have any legitimacy before this theatrical election and he will not after,” he said.

“We do not know what actor he is putting up as an opponent but we are not taking this seriously.”

Infighting has fragmented the anti-Assad forces during the conflict, and several major opposition figures have not attended the Geneva talks. Assad has not said whether he will stand again, but his allies in Russia and in Lebanon’s Shi’ite movement Hezbollah have predicted he will participate and win. In state-controlled parts of the capital Damascus, preparations for his candidacy have already begun.

Announcing the election on state television, parliamentary speaker Mohamed Jihad al-Laham said requests for nomination would be accepted until May 1. Voting for Syrians outside the country would take place at Syrian embassies on May 28, he said.

Syria’s parliament set residency rules for presidential candidates in March, a move that would bar many of Assad’s foes who live in exile.

Assad said last week that the conflict had reached a “turning point” due to his forces’ military gains against the rebels. The fighting has continued, with air strikes, gun battles and shelling reported on Monday across the country.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put Sunday’s death toll at 273, including dozens in air strikes on the northern city of Aleppo. Fighting killed dozens more in the early part of Monday.

Meanwhile, dozens of people have been killed in air strikes on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, a monitoring group said on Monday, including at least 29 people in a single neighbourhood.

Also on Monday, state news agency SANA said two people were killed when mortars struck central Damascus.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes killed 29 people on Sunday, including women and children, in the southern Al-Ferdous district of Aleppo, a city that was once Syria’s largest and a major commercial hub.

Another 14 people were killed in the Baeedeen neighbourhood in “barrel bomb” attacks - strikes in which helicopters drop highly destructive improvised explosives - the group said. A further five died in barrel bomb attacks in the village of Tlajabin, it added.

Western powers have condemned the use of barrel bombs as a war crime, but they continue to fall nearly every day in Aleppo and other parts of Syria.

SANA said two people were killed in Damascus when mortars fired by “terrorists” - its term for rebel fighters - hit the Al-Salihiya neighbourhood of the capital and a nearby area.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which started as a peaceful protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in March 2011 and turned into civil war after a government crackdown.