Sunday, 26 February 2012

Syrian referendum

Syria gears up for referendum

25 February, 2012

War-torn Syria is gearing up for an unprecedented referendum on a new draft constitution that would put an end to five decades of single-party rule. But the opposition is calling on the population to boycott the vote, which is set for Sunday.

On Sunday millions of Syrians are expected to vote on their country’s new constitution. Posters and banners calling on people to come and vote are everywhere in the capital and all around the country, RT’s Maria Finoshina reports from Damascus. For the first time in the country’s history the Interior Ministry is urging people to come and vote without actually telling them how they should vote, she says.

The draft of the newly proposed constitution has been made public days before the referendum takes place. Hundreds of its copies have been distributed among people to let them know what changes the new law puts forward. 

The draft constitution includes 14 new and 47 amended articles. 

One of the main changes is Article 8, which actually ends over 50 years of single-party rule in Syria. It proclaims that political system in Syria is based on pluralism and multiparty system is permitted.

Also very important is Article 88, as it says that president of the country could only be elected for two seven-year terms. This change however will come into power only after the next presidential elections, which is scheduled for 2014. 

The draft constitution meets the majority of democratic demands of the Syrians.

According to the Interior Ministry 14,000 polling stations have been set up for the referendum. About 15 million Syrians have the right to vote, but it is hard to predict how many of them will actually turn out. 

However, as Maria Finoshina reports, the referendum may come too late as violence is continuing in the country between the opposition and the authorities.

The opposition has already called to boycott the vote and go on strike. RT’s correspondent says warnings are circling in Damascus that there could be attacks and explosions at the polling stations during the vote.

Meanwhile, a group of countries, led by the US, calling themselves the Friends of Syria have called for tougher sanctions on Damascus. 

Political activist Shabbir Razvi believes that the Friends of Syria should be really dubbed “the Foes of Syria," because they are really not working "for the interest of Syrian people.”

The Western powers I think would never be satisfied with any kind of change occurring in Syria or any of the other Middle Eastern countries so long as that change is not in the interest or benefit of the Western powers,” Razvi told RT. “To think that the West can ever be interested for the people of a particular country is laughable.”

Historian and political analyst Peter Rushton told RT that the main challenge for the Syrian government right now is to assure that the referendum gets through smoothly, “without terrorist attacks to disrupt it.

The major problem for the government in Damascus and everybody on the ground in Syria will be allowing the process to go ahead relatively uninterrupted,” Rushton said. “The key thing will be not just the result of the referendum, but the number of people who are allowed to take part in it and thus it is being shown as a legitimate consultation of the people.”

Rushton believes that if any kind of violence takes place during the vote, the West may say: 

The result is illegitimate! That may well be the reason why the bombs are going off in the first place.”

'CIA & Western media's total fiasco in Syria'
Calls for tougher economic sanctions against Syria are getting louder at the 'Friends of Syria' meeting in Tunisia, with the EU already preparing to freeze the Syrian Central Bank assets next week. It's among the new measures to cripple the Assad regime being proposed by the U.S. and its allies, as they gather to hammer out the Syrian crisis. German government consultant Christoph Horstel thinks that the West is trying to transplant its regime-change strategy from Libya to Syria.

and from al-Jazeera

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