Monday, October 17, 2011

Candice Lanier - Assad’s Latest Trick: A New Constitution

The Jerusalem Post reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad formed a committee on Saturday whose task it will be to draft a new constitution.  The committee has been given four months in which to complete the draft.  This comes on the heels of the passage of new laws which, on the surface, appear to allow for more freedom.  But, the advent of these laws is more likely a superficial attempt at pacifying the opposition, following several months of unrest in the country.

Now, after 41 years of Assad family rule, the president has extended a promise of “multi-party” parliamentary elections by February. Nevertheless, in typical Assad style, tanks and troops have been deployed across Syria, causing some speculation as to the sincerity of his call for reform.
According to the state news agency, SANA, “President Assad issued today decree number 33 which stipulates forming a committee to prepare for a draft constitution.”

The constitution, which was modified by Assad’s late father, President Hafez Assad, in the 1970s, discourages any political diversity by designating the ruling Baath Party as “leader of the state and society.”

As expected, the Syrian opposition has called for the dissolution of this clause.  They have also taken issue with another that stipulates that the president can only be nominated by his Baath Party.  Also opposed are numerous other laws passed over the course of the past 50 years.  They are, according to the opposition, oppressive and corrupt.

The most recent laws passed by Assad appear to support democracy, but upon closer inspection it is evident that these laws maintain a quota system through which the majority retained is made up of representatives from state-controlled unions.  Moreover, at this time there are no opposition figures in Syria’s parliament.

In contrast to Assad’s purported proposal for reform is the ongoing violence.  Bangkok Post reports that at least three people were killed, on Saturday, by security forces and that The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a member of its network, Ziad Rafiq al-Obeidi, was killed by security forces in Deir Ezzor.  Rafiq al-Obeidi had gone into hiding in back in August while military operations were taking place in the area.

In Homs, a veritable hotbed of dissent, the Syrian army, backed by armored vehicles, cordoned off and stormed several neighborhoods, which were rocked by heavy gunfire, said the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), an anti-regime activist network.  In Damascus, a young man was shot and killed during a funeral procession for child martyr, Ibrahim Al-Sheban.
Reportedly, over 15,000 were in attendance for the boy’s funeral.  He was killed on Friday – one of twelve – when security forces fired at anti-regime protestors in various locales.

Cross-posted on World Threats