بدون سياسة في سوريا
أميمه عبد اللطيف
without politics in Syria
April 23, 2007
from some posters and banners scattered across the
lack of enthusiasm may be attributable to the fact that
only one-third of the 250 parliamentary seats are
actually up for grabs. The other two-thirds (167 seats)
are automatically allocated to the Nationalist
Progressive Front (NPF), a coalition of the Baath Party and nine other parties that has ruled Syria since
1972. NPF candidates are selected for their loyalty to
the party line and clean record with Syrian security
services. The only real competition is among thousands
of independent candidates for the remaining 83 seats.
Independents have been allowed to run for Parliament
since 1990, a step that was intended to add a gloss of
legitimacy and representation to the People's Assembly.
candidates divide themselves into various lists, which
do not necessarily reflect a division along ideological
lines. The most prominent electoral list is Al-Sham,
which includes well-known figures in business, former
parliamentarians, and clergymen. Its platform focuses on
unemployment and the rising costs of living. Mohieddin
Haboush, a tourism mogul who has already served two
terms in Parliament, said of Al-Sham: "We are not
opposition and we are not from the NPF but we represent various trends in Syrian society."
When asked about widespread criticisms of the
Parliament's marginal role in shaping the legislative
agenda, Haboush blamed the media for failing to report
accurately the role and activities of the assembly.
most Syrians, however, the issue goes beyond
underreporting the Parliament's activities, as Haboush
and other candidates claim. Popular political apathy
results in voter turnouts between 4 and 10 percent,
according to unofficial figures, reflecting deeply
rooted distrust of the election process and doubt that
the Parliament plays any significant role.
some NPF politicians share this popular perception.
"The tasks assigned to the assembly are reduced to
examining draft laws submitted by the Cabinet,"
said Youssef al-Faisal, head of the Syrian Communist Party, one of the parties in the NPF alliance.
"Most of the time," he continued, "those
laws are passed with hardly any modification, whatever
remarks parliamentarians might make during debate."
In fact, the Syrian Constitution limits the powers of the assembly to
reviewing Cabinet statements and policies. The assembly
statute allows up to 10 deputies to propose draft laws
during a legislative session, but deputies never make
use of the privilege.
few procedural changes were introduced to the election
process this time. Transparent ballot boxes will be used
for the first time, and campaign spending will be capped
at the equivalent of $60,000 per candidate. For the most
part, however, elections will be conducted as they have
been in the past. There will be no judicial supervision;
rather, each polling station will be supervised by three
civil servants who pledge an oath before a judge. The
electoral law stipulates that every governorate
constitutes an electoral district except for
Syrian opposition is boycotting the elections, saying
that the few changes to the electoral process fell far
short of their longstanding demands. Led by the Syrian
Democratic Coalition (SDC) and the Damascus Declaration
bloc - an alliance of 16 political parties - the
opposition says it has a national project for democratic
and peaceful change, including a new electoral law and
the establishment of political parties. The opposition
expects a broad popular boycott of the elections,
despite a campaign by state media to get
one-party rule in
Abdel Latif is an Egyptian journalist and projects
coordinator at the
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