Assad Completes His Reform Program
by Shakeeb Al-Jabri
The Assad regime is demonstrating once again that it does not welcome any political solution to the crisis in Syria. Today Syrians are voting in legislative elections to select their representatives. However, most realize that these elections will have no impact other than to close doors on any power-sharing agreement between the Baath Party which single handedly ruled Syria over the past five decades and its opponents who are asking for a more inclusive process.
The regime responded to the uprising in Syria by launching a reform process it claimed will bring the country into the 21st century. The process was initiated, run, and finalized by the Baath Party without including any other forces in the country. Today’s elections are promoted by the regime as the crowning jewel of its reform program. Yet for all the fanfare, very few Syrians are interested in these elections, including many of the candidates.
The elections are being held after a reform law paved the way for new parties to participate and after a new constitution was ratified. These reforms are meant to make a democracy out of Syria but none of Assad’s opponents buy into that narrative. It’s not hard to see why. Anyone seeking to establish a new party must get the approval of a committee appointed by the president first. Syria’s new constitution, the much touted modern constitution for a 21st century Syria gives all power to the president. He can bypass parliament in passing legislation and if the MP prove too unruly, he can dismiss parliament without any hiccups.
The only new parties that emerged are suspected of having close ties to the regime. None-the-less, five of these parties decided to boycott the elections at the eleventh hour, after running campaigns for the past month. The Tadamoun Party objects to the creation of a “United Syria” electoral list that includes the Baath Party and its allies commonly known as “The Front.” Tadamoun says this list is an attempt to predetermine the outcome of elections by the Baathists. The AlAnsar Party’s withdrawal statement list many reasons for its decision with the top one being the continuation of military operations in the country.
Assad’s real opponents are the ones partaking in protests calling for the fall of the regime and the execution of the president for the crimes he’s committing against them. These opponents are too busy dodging mortars and scavenging for food to bother with elections. They can neither run for parliament nor vote for their representatives. They are looking for real change in leadership. They desire the right to self-determination. They want to lead the reform process themselves.
But Assad will not let them because he knows that any real reform will hasten the end of his rule, so he completed the reform process on his own. Assad completed the enormous task of building Syria of the future all alone. In the past year he passed a few new laws, wrote a new constitution, and assigned a new government. With this new parliament he completes his reform program. Yet everything in Syria remains the same as it was 40 years ago.