Syrian elections: Baath of most resistance

With Syria mired in street violence and ongoing opposition rallies, its political life gears towards another historic change. With parliamentary elections now scheduled, opposition parties plan to compete seem to be in a state of disarray.

­President Bashar al-Assad hopes the elections scheduled for May will constitute a political solution to the pro-democracy protests. Major political reform has already been introduced as 89 per cent of the Syrian population voted in favor of a multi-party system, amending the previous constitution that stipulated only one, the Arab Socialist Baath Party, “leads society and the state."

Members of the once-sole ruler, the Baath Party, believe Syria is going through a historic transformation.

“The country’s been in stagnation for long time. The multi-party system will finally pave the way to competition, development. And in this new Syria there’ll be room enough for all, opposition and those angry," Ahmad Al Haj Ali, a journalist and political analyst from the Baath Party, told RT’s Maria Finoshina.

­A constitutional referendum was held in Syria on 26 February 2012. The new constitution received support from 89 per cent of the voters. The documents now sets a limit of two seven-year terms for future presidents and also removed Article 8 of the previous document, which stated that the Arab Socialist Baath Party leads the state and society. Since 1972, only parties that are members of the National Progressive Front, and accept the leadership role of the Baath Party and support the government have been allowed to operate, under severe restrictions. The recently-adopted New Parties Law gives the right to create political parties outside the National Progressive Front. In 2012, some parties were licensed: the National Democratic Solidarity Party, Syrian Democratic Party, National Development Party, Democratic Arab Solidarity Party, Al Ansar Party, Democratic Al-Taliyeh Party.

But many activists on the ground have moved past the point of dialogue. Many are still seeing armed struggle as the best means to get rid of the president Al-Assad. And to arm the opposition, they are calling on outside forces.

“Of course it’s a fake. One hundred per cent fake talks,” argues Abdalaziz Khayyer from the National Co-ordination Committee. “We don’t trust the regime. People don’t trust government. What they say we gave it chance many times – it’s never been honest.”

A new constitution, the latest in the package of reforms, also includes the lifting of emergency laws and the release of political prisoners.

Ahmad Al Haj Ali believes these changes could be a double-edge sword, making the country stronger, but also more vulnerable to foreign influence.

“There are people – and their salaries are in dollars, reals and dharmas – they want to destroy the country. They don’t want changes. No, they cannot allow changes to happen. They have to spoil reformation – and we should stand steel to resist,” he told RT.

But with 90 days left before the parliamentary elections, those who dare to compete hope the ice has broken – and they will use this opportunity to activate people’s political will.

“I can describe the situation as painful. But we can resolve it together. Our party's preparing documents for President and Government – we call on all parties to start dialogue. Military solution and foreign countries’ interference only made things worse. We should now intervene and we should start deciding,” Zafer Alkotob from a newly-formed Al-Ansar party told RT.

The democratic changes the uprising has brought are already altering the political landscape in Syria. But the same transformations are yet to happen in the minds of those who raged in the streets for more than a year. And that is something which could take much longer.

­Maher Salloum, ambassador to the Universal Peace Federation, told RT that the West should give Assad a chance to continue his administrative, political and judicial reforms. There is an “open opportunity window” to have a ceasefire between the conflicting sides, Salloum believes.

“We witnessed a really important intermediary step ahead where Syrians can be independent, democratically speaking,” he said, referring to the adoption of the new Syrian constitution. However, Salloum believes that the president should put forward some “better reform initiatives.”