Elections in Syria
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politics and government of
As of 2014, Syria is divided between two governments, both of which make contested claims to be the only true democratic government of Syria. A bitter civil war between the two has raged since 2011 following a period of unarmed demonstrations and unrest in 2011, which was part of the international wave of protest known as the Arab Spring.
The Baathist government, headed by Bashar Assad, son of previous leader Hafez Assad, is based in Damascus, the traditional capital. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is conducting its first regional elections in early March 2013 for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and main commercial hub. Due to fighting, the elections are being held by 200+ representatives in Ghazi, Turkey.
Both of Syria’s major cities are divided, as both sides have forces in each other’s respective strongholds in the north and south. The western coastal areas, heavily populated by members of the president’s sect, the Alawites, are firmly under Damascus’ control. The eastern areas of Syria, much of which are populated by Kurds, are almost entirely outside of Damascus’ control. Druze and Palestinian areas in the south suffer from divided loyalties, and the area of central Syria between the two capitals is a region of mixed pockets of control and hotly contested highways and other essential supply lines. There are fighters and equipment from other nations on both sides of the conflict, and the UN security Council has been divided and largely powerless to affect conditions in Syria.
Syria elects on national level a head of state - the president - and a legislature. The People's Council (Majlis al-Sha'ab) has 250 members elected for a four-year term in 15 multi-seat constituencies. According to previous Syrian constitution of 1973 Syria was a form of single-party state in which only one political party, the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party was legally allowed to hold effective power. Although minor parties were allowed, they were legally required to accept the leadership of the dominant party. The presidential candidate was appointed by the parliament, on suggestion of the Baath Party, and needed to be confirmed for a seven-year term in a national single-candidate referendum. The most recent presidential referendum took place in 2007. The new Syrian constitution of 2012, approved in popular referendum, introduced multi-party system without guaranteed leadership of any political party.1 In a new article 88, it introduced presidential elections and limited the term of office for the president to seven years with a maximum of one re-election.2
During the French Mandate and after the independence the parliamentary elections in Syria have been held under a system similar to the Lebanese one, with fixed representation for every religious community, including Druzes, Alawis and Christians. In 1949 the system was modified, giving women the right to vote.3456
On August 2011 President Assad signed Decree No. 101 on amending the General Elections Law. The Law stipulates that elections are to be held with public, secret, direct and equal voting where each Syrian voter, who completed eighteen years old, has one vote. The Law does not allow army members and policemen in service to participate in elections. It also provides for forming a higher judicial committee for elections with its headquarters in Damascus to monitor the elections and ensure its integrity, in addition to forming judicial sub-committees in every Syrian province affiliated to the higher committee.7
The rebel-held areas of Syria have gone through three phases. First, there was a political organization of exiles, the Syrian National Council, which had little connection to local areas and militias.
Local leaders and militia heads were incorporated with the SNC to form the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in November 2012, with a leader, Moaz al-Khatib, elected by its assembly met in Doha, Qatar.
In March, 2013, representatives of local areas in Aleppo city and province met in Ghazi, Turkey, to elect a city council and provincial council.
- SANA Syrian News Agency - Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic Approved in Popular Referendum on February 27, 2012, Article 8
- SANA Syrian News Agency - Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic Approved in Popular Referendum on February 27, 2012, Article 88
- "The Arab-American handbook: a guide to the Arab, Arab-American & Muslim worlds", Nawar Shora. Cune Press, 2008. ISBN 1-885942-47-8, ISBN 978-1-885942-47-0. p. 261
- Albert H. Hourani, Minorities in the Arab World, London, Oxford University Press, 1947 ISBN 0-404-16402-1
- Claude Palazzoli, La Syrie - Le rêve et la rupture, Paris, Le Sycomore, 1977 ISBN 2-86262-002-5
- Nikolaos van Dam, The Struggle For Power in Syria: Politics and Society Under Asad and the Ba'th Party, London, Croom Helm, 1979 ISBN 1-86064-024-9
- President al-Assad Issues Legislative Decree on General Elections Law, SANA news agency