Syria calls referendum on constitution

2012-02-15 15:00

Damascus - Syria's president has decreed to hold a referendum later this month for a new constitution that would effectively end nearly 50 years of single party rule, state media said on Wednesday.

"President Bashar Assad issued today a decree setting Sunday, February 26, as the date for the referendum on the proposed constitution," the official SANA news agency reported.

Assad has said the constitution would usher in a "new era" for Syria, the agency reported.

Under the new charter, freedom is "a sacred right" and "the people will govern the people" in a multi-party democratic system based on Islamic law, state television reported.

The proposed constitution does away with Article 8 of the old charter which declared the Baath Party, in power since 1963, as the "leader of the state and society".

But it fell short of what was required to appease the opposition in Syria, said Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre.


"Political reform is a process that needs some basic elements. It must include the opposition which has not been the case," Salem said in Beirut.

"It has to be based on negotiation, agreement, consent. And holding a referendum, like holding an election in any country, requires stability... it also logistically takes time," he said.

"It's good that the regime at any point talks about reform or fundamental change, but... holding a referendum amid a civil war between the government and its people is unacceptable."

On Sunday, a commission tasked with drawing up a new constitution submitted a draft charter to Assad, SANA reported, adding he would review it and send it to the People's Assembly before a vote.

"When the new constitution is approved, Syria will have passed the most important stage" of reforms leading to a 'new era' for its people and bringing a "brilliant future for next generations", it quoted him as saying at the time.

In January, Assad said a new constitution was being drawn up by a committee set up in October to replace the current one, which enshrines his Baath party's dominant role.

He said then it could be put to a popular vote as early as March, although that date for the ballot has now been brought forward.

  • Fidel - 2012-02-15 15:19

    Well done to the Syrian authorities, the ball has ben put firmly in the insurgents'court. Let's see how politically matured they are.

      ThatDeadDude - 2012-02-15 17:55

      I think any gripes at this stage would still be fair. It's a bit hard to imagine that any elections at this stage would be particularly free and fair.

      Fidel - 2012-02-15 18:53

      I tend to agree with you regarding the time table of holding a referendun, but it is a good gesture nonetheless because the government has conceded that the genie has been let out the bottle. Hope all Syrians are tired of fighting and can work together to resolve their problems. They can even have something similar to our TRC once everything has settled.

      Fred - 2012-02-16 02:56

      Fidel, it's faulty and immature to bundle "all Syrians" together and hope they all stop fighting when the truth is Assad has been killing peaceful, unarmed demstrators for eleven months, six thousand of them. It is only recently, the past month or two that the demonstrators have taken up arms. It lacks courage and understanding to not discern between the parts of the whole and smoosh them altogether this way.

  • Michael - 2012-02-15 16:07

    Unfortunately it is likely that the "activists" whoever they may be will reject this very positive step as will the baying hounds in Whitehall, Washington and Paris. There is simply no way that they will concede any high ground to Assad. Once again, this will be extensively rubbished by the pro western media, and a glimmer of a chance for a peaceful resolution will be passed up, just as the Arab Monitors were.

      Fidel - 2012-02-15 16:13

      Well spotted Michael.

      Fred - 2012-02-16 19:29

      Very positive step? An exaggeration to say the least. Assad has killed six thousand unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, detained and tortured tens of thousand more. Is that how you want the Middle East to be?

  • Anthony - 2012-02-15 18:01

    This assad wants to copy Mubarak and that gaddafi thug, and come with some half baked BS. No, what this TYRANT, does not seem to understand, is that the Syrian population, THIS TIME, is DEMANDING no less, than that off the departure of this corrupt violent assad dynasty, Dead or Alive !! THEY WILL GO !!! THE SYRIANS WANT THEIR COUNTRY BACK, WHICH WAS STOLEN FROM THEM !!! They no longer want to be insulted and treated like small children, and be told that they are not mature enough. Let this assad and his rubbish family ROT IN HELL!!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-15 18:56

      You know what they say about keyboard warriors, perhaps he should go fight amongst the insurgents in that country. It's always those who've never had a sniff of gunpowder who roar an shout the most about wanting to fight wars. Fools then an fools now.

      Leon - 2012-02-15 19:19

      well lets hope this work and they can get rid of him that way war is ugly and at the end of the day there is no winners and that you can see on the faces of children

      Anthony - 2012-02-15 19:53

      @Patrick, That is a rather silly comment. In Syria, you got the same happenning as did in Egypt and Libya. You got part of the population, who want a change of government. Now what do you expect them to do , in a dictatorship ? Write a letter to the pope ????? They use the ONLY tool they got, and that is to go onto the streets. ------------------------UNARMED !!!!!!!----------------------- And they demanded to be listened to !!!!! And WHAT was the response from Maburak , gaddafi, and now this assad; Was it ; Come lets sit down as mature people, and find solutions?????? NOOOOOOOOO, it was NOT !!! It was the opposite. Like what that DOG gaddafi said; " The blood of these rats will flow in the streets of Libya " Well it the THOUSANDS OF LITRES. And now the same is happenning in Syria. This assad THUG, with his violent brothers, are resposible for the MURDER of THOUSANDS, many of them (still) UNARMED protesters. And now that Russia is threatening to pull the plug, this BUTCHER wants to talk...................!!!!!! NOW ITS TOO LATE !!!! FOR 42 YEARS, ( FOURTY TWO YEARS )THE OPPOSITION WANTED TO TALK. Now these assads can go to hell !!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-15 20:16

      Anthony, you 'clown', your post appears to be one long, unwarranted and ignorant ad hom. Try logic and argument.

      Anthony - 2012-02-15 21:48

      @Patrick, "We will go door to door and sniff out these RATS " ( Rats, aka , the Libyan opposition ) " The blood of these REBELS, will flow in the streets of Libya " ( The Rebels, aka the LIbyan opposition.) Both these quotes are from your "true African hero, gaddafi !!! This psychopathic MONSTER did more damage to Africa, and divided it more than any other African leader in history!!!! But you know who is getting sooo sick and tired of all this gaddafi crap; its the Libyan people themselves. No wonder they don't have any time for Africa!!!!!1

      Fred - 2012-02-16 02:59

      No Patrick, it's your ignorance and misunderstanding of what is really going on that leads to the killing of "innocents". You're supporting and enabling the very forces of the killing: Assad and his cronies. How can you expect the killing to end?

      Fred - 2012-02-16 20:40

      Patrick, you're a rotten anti-Semite and supporter of the psychotic, self-enriching Gaddafi. You also smoosh the peaceful demonstrators together with the cruel and immature technocrat Bashar Assad who has killed six thousand unarmed civilians mostly by sniper fire, detained and tortured tens of thousands more in a futile attempt to hold onto power. Unless you're a coward, you would know that thd only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to him. In so doing, military intervention becomes his choice, unless he steps down.

  • Fred - 2012-02-15 18:50

    There's a glimmer of hope. Will Assad go through it now and truly allow the free will of the Syrian people to express itself? He is still accountable for the 6,000 deaths mostly by sniper fire, and the untold torture in police detention of tens of thousands of Syrians. This cannot and should not be wiped away.

  • Fred - 2012-02-16 03:06

    Fidel, Patrick, Michael, Pierre and a few others are the same small group who supported Gaddafi (yes, psychotic, madman Gaddafi) and got it hopelessly wrong then. They're wrong about Syria, will in all probability be wrong when Assad has fallen (and fall he will) and Iran is in the spotlight, all the while missing the changes of regimes happening in Russia and China. It's going to be interesting if they're still around two or so years from now, when the world will be so different. What will they be saying?

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