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A “Farce” of a Referendum Held in Syria As Violence Continues

A “Farce” of a Referendum Held in Syria As Violence Continues
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Even as at least 89 people were killed yesterday on Saturday across Syria and 20 on Sunday, the Syrian government is holding a referendum on a draft constitution. The new constitution calls for the implementation of a multi-party system in Syria, instead of allowing only for the ruling Ba’ath Party. Calling the referendum a “farce,” activists have boycotted it and called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

As the opposition points out, the old constitution — which allows for freedom of speech and peaceful demonstrations and bans torture — has never been followed. Syria has been ruled by the same family dynasty since 1963, when Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, seized control.

New Syrian Constitution: More Empty Promises?

As the New York Times details, the changes proposed in the new constitution contain “giant caveats.” While the president would be limited to two seven-year terms, this change would be instituted only when Assad’s current term expires in 2014. He would therefore be allowed to serve two more terms and rule until he was 62 and would then have been in power for 28 years, just two shy of the 30-year-rule of his father. In addition, only a Muslim could be president. 90 percent of Syria’s population are Muslim, but religious minorities and secular Syrians had “hoped for at least a pro forma support of pluralism.”

Other measures seem geared to keeping the political opposition from participating broadly in politics or becoming president. Candidates must have lived in Syria for ten success years and may not have a foreign-born wife (an interesting stipulation as Assad’s wife, Asma, was born in London and has  a British passport). The new constitution also does not allow the creation of political parties based on race or ethnicity, effectively preventing groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or the representatives of the Kurdish minority from forming such.

The Syrian government has set up 13,000 polling stations across the country, for 14.6 million voters. The stations opened at 7:00 am on Sunday morning and are to remain open for ten hours.

Violence Continues Throughout Syria

The BBC‘s Jim Muir, reporting from Lebanon, said that voting seemed to be proceeded in a “fairly normal” manner according to footage of Damascus and other places as shown on SANA, Syria’s state television network. But Muir also said that “it is far from normal, with explosions and shooting reported from the east, west, north and south” in the rest of the country. Civilians and soldiers are reported dead in the central city of Homs, which has been under siege for over three weeks. Clashes have also been reported in the city of Hama, the scene of a 1982 massacre of an estimated 20,000 residents under Hafez Assad; in the north-western province of Idlib; and in Daraa, the southern city where the uprising began almost a year also in mid-March.

Reporting from Damascus, Lina Sinjab told the BBC that she saw two people vote in the 20 minutes she was a polling center at a school “although Ahmad Baalbaki, who was supervising the process, said 300 people had cast their vote.”

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Photo of Assef Shawqat, head of military intelligence, the late Hafez Assad and President Bashar al-Assad by amerune

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37 comments

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3:21AM PST on Mar 4, 2012

"[over] 50% of the country's total voting population. "

That gells with opinion polls that have been conducted.

On another note, the BBC is uncritically putting out the armed rebels' line that the Red Cross/Crescent are being held up from entering Homs out of sheer wickedness. The government's reason, that the army needs to defuse booby traps/unexploded ordinance, is referred to sarcastically. I never thought I'd see the day that Aunty Beeb was so lazy.

12:51AM PST on Mar 4, 2012

The other interesting thing about this referendum is that the result was not only an outright majority, it was a feasible outright majority.
In other words - no ballot rigging. (Even Syria's detractors haven't suggested that.)
And the 50+% majority I mentioned wasn't 50% of the vote, but 50% of the country's total voting population.
As I ascertained when I went to Syria late last year (fearful, because of the news reports but needing to cross the country) the people are behind their president. Even those who want change are behind him and trust him. Though many criticised 'the old guard' of politicians who were doing their best to hold up necessary reforms they were very much in favour of those reforms al-Assad had managed to get passed.
I had a couple of meetings with army personnel, too - once when taking a short-cut - and found them as courteous as ever, the country's problems notwithstanding.
Many people don't like what's happening, but that's a long, long way from saying they're 'afraid' or 'oppressed'. They were more worried about their jobs and the lack of fuel in the oncoming winter.

3:40AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

In the UK, majority governments are formed by parties who have 30% to 40% of the vote. Yet al-Assad achieves a complete majority and the referendum is denounced by the propagandists as a farce. Quite incredible.

2:29AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

Re. the referendum. It's being descrbed everywhere as a 'farce'.
Yet I did the sums: if you work it out by numbers over 50% of the poulation voted for it. And this was in spite of determined efforts by the opposition forces to deter people from voting (one has to wonder why).
A 50+% supporting vote is greater than any I know of for US Presidents in the past 50 or so years. Yet the US claims to be a 'democratic' country.

2:23AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

Just gone and looked at it now, John. (I'm a very busy person, haha). It's succinct and very well-argued.
I read yet another 'news report' regarding Syria this morning - not on this website - and listed the 'emotive words' that seem to crop up in almost every story.
'regime' - 'criminal regime' - brutal leader - 'butchery' - 'bloody' ... and so on.

It's almost impossible to read any story abo ut what is happening in Syria withoout seeing several of these words cropping up.Given such a steady diet of the above and similar words it's no wonder that people begin to believe them.
I've BEEN to Syria, several times in the past 10 years. I hold no brief for either side, and am not likely to believe the propaganda produced by either the 'rebels' or the government. But honest reporting and analysis is sadly lacking here.
Try putting the same emotive words to something happening on your own doorstep and see how it changes the story.

10:16AM PST on Feb 29, 2012

Hello Sian R

I hope you saw my post of 3:35AM PST on Feb 27, 2012.

I made the same points and have done so on other threads. Now I see that because al-Assad has achieved a majority in the referendum, he is being criticised for it.

7:56AM PST on Feb 29, 2012

Candidates must have lived in Syria for ten success [sic] years and may not have a foreign-born wife (an interesting stipulation as Assad’s wife, Asma, was born in London and has a British passport). The new constitution also does not allow the creation of political parties based on race or ethnicity, effectively preventing groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or the representatives of the Kurdish minority from forming such.

These seem to me like pretty good measures, designed to keep extremists from gaining/holdig power. I wonder why Kristina is so keen on the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, being able to rule the country?

7:53AM PST on Feb 29, 2012

All these Bath Party dictators follow the same path, not a one of them has a brain. It is a shame, because this funnel-necked big eared characature of a ferret in a suit probably has the least idea of reality among all of them.

4:34AM PST on Feb 28, 2012

All the super nations are watching the people die and do not care a damn - if there was oil and Assad was a murderer but kept the oil flowing he would be every one's best friend.

Right now, how much does he buy and how he can help in your global strategy. Syria can be the best friend if he did any of the above. In this case the Zionists and their supporting corporates are rubbing their hands in glee. They can destroy any country, pretend to rebuild and continue to plunder the people and the place till there is nothing left.

If there was some decency, the West should have imposed sanctions a long time ago. Chinese and Russians will have the advantage to deal with this monster while the West shuns it (the boot is on the other foot now)

I can only hope and pray Asad is killed soon so the rest of the people don't lose every thing they have. Suits the Zionists fine to keep this conflict going as long as possible - it focuses the world's eyes to something else while they keep oppressing Palestinians and destroying every thing they have left.

6:14PM PST on Feb 27, 2012

The nation states have failed. The business and the State join hands and kill innocent people within the country and outside the country. Now consider for a World without Borders

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