Syrian referendum

Syria FlagSyrian President Bashar al-Assad signed a draft constitution on Tuesday, a day after it was approved in a referendum by over 89 percent of Syrians. The referendum was criticised as being a ‘sham’ as was the draft constitution but there is one significant omission in it, that of the Ba’ath Party being the “leader of the nation and society”. The draft constitution promises that the political system “is based on the principle of political pluralism, and rule is only obtained and exercised democratically through voting”. This is quite significant given Syria’s history of having a one-party rule for decades. The reason for this was that the Arab socialists were influenced by the Soviet Revolution as well as the Soviet adoption of a one-party system, despite the fact that it was circumstantial and not rooted in Marxist theory. In people’s consciousness, the Soviet system became associated with Socialism. The Arab socialists adopted it in practice. Syria is not an ordinary country in the Arab world. It has been a resilient critic of Israel, and as the saying in the Arab world goes, the Arabs cannot fight a war without Egypt and cannot make peace with Israel without Syria.

Perhaps this is why the western countries see Syria as a big threat and are trying their utmost to either go for a direct intervention or arm the Syrian opposition to overthrow the Assad regime. So far, they have not been successful as far as a direct intervention is concerned due to Russia and China’s firm stand against it. Russia and China are wiser after what happened in Libya. Now the western imperialists have only one option, i.e. to arm the Syrian Free Army to the teeth.Some say that the draft constitution is too little, too late, and that Assad’s biggest mistake was to resist reforming the system in timely fashion. Perhaps the reason for Assad’s hesitation was that whenever an autocratic regime tries its hand at reforms, the opposition’s pent up resentments take on a momentum and dynamic of their own. It is usually way more than what the ‘reformers’ bargained for.

Assad might have thought that he could thwart his opponents through force but he underestimated the US-led west’s wish to roll back Arab Socialist nationalism. The provisions of these reforms are a halfway house and an attempt to offer some concessions, while consolidating the Ba’ath Party’s rule. Assad still has a lot of genuine support in Syria, something the west is not taking into account. In case of indirect foreign intervention to subvert the Assad regime, the west would push Syria into a civil war, which could explode the entire Arab world. The west must act with restraint