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Syria’s Latest Swing at Reform

Samara Greenberg

The Syrian government endorsed a draft law on Sunday that will allow political parties to exist alongside the ruling Baath Party in yet another attempt at implementing reforms to calm the uprising. The bill, which needs parliamentary approval to become law, would allow for the establishment of new political parties in Syria as long as they fall in line with strict criteria.

The parties cannot be based on religious or tribal lines, discriminate based on ethnicity, gender, or race, or be linked to any non-Syrian political groups. According to Anwar Al Bounni, head of the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research, the law also stipulates that “any political party needs to have at least 2,000 members representing at least seven Syrian provinces before being active” and the parties will only become active once legalized by a committee made up of the minister of interior, a judge, and three members appointed by the president.

Another serious problem with the law is that it will require parties to make a commitment to the Syrian constitution, in which Article 8 states that the Baath party is the leader of the state and society, essentially making political parties useless. Unsurprisingly, the protest movement was unmoved by the government’s newest overture, especially as the regime continues its policy of detention and mass arrest.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Asad’s latest swing at reform is meaningless. The only type of reform the protesters will seemingly (and rightly) accept at this point is his removal. And until then, arrests, heavy violence, and continued detentions can only be expected from the Syrian regime.