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The Syrian debate over a new constitution

The Syrian debate over a new constitution

By Areej Zaher* — Recently there have been some arguments in favour and against the new Syrian constitution after what sputnik published as a draft for a new constitution adding new powers to the parliament regarding the declaration of war, the removal of president, appointment of the ruler for the national bank and naming the constitutional court.
“Syria is proud of its Arab Nationality and its citizens being part and parcel of the Arab Nation, embodying this association in carrying out its patriotic and national goal, and supporting Arab collaboration in order to enforce integration, and achieving the unity of the Arab Nation.” This was written in the Syrian constitution introduction to enforce the importance of the Arab nationality of the country, and this didn’t raise any eyebrows so far. But this new draft has omitted the Arabism in favour of the minorities. And it suggested omitting any expressions that refer to Syrian Arab nationality including the word “Arab” from the country’s name to emphasize diversity in the society. The first item of the first article said clearly “The Syrian Republic is an independent country that has sovereignty.”
There are some good signs regarding preserving the minorities rights and their diversity in the society, which was mentioned in the third item of this article. Besides carrying out a national referendum in case of changing the state boarders, which was mentioned in the second item of the ninth article. Not to mention what was in the second item of the fourth article, considering Kurdish language as equal to Arabic in Kurdish cultural autonomous systems and its organizations.
It was in the third item of the 54th article “naming the prime minister and ministers is based on proportional representation for all sects and nationalities in Syria, and some positions will be preserved for those minorities.”
The third article in its first item regarding the president religion ,which should be Islam, seems to contradict other articles emphasizing on equality for all Syrian citizens. Though Muslims are about 85% the population. Besides this item doesn’t meet the establishment of parties based on religion or sect. And this item sheds a light on the situation of ethnic and religious groups of the country, that the ninth article of the constitution has preserved the diversity of all its constituents.
The biggest debate could be the Russian role in drafting this constitution, which may considered an outrageous middling in the Syrian affairs or its sovereignty. And some may see this as a typical act of a proud country like Russia, which interests in the region are well known, so in this step Russia would dominate not only its military but also its political presence defying its biggest rival, the USA.
Though Damascus was opposing any foreign middling in its affairs, whether politically, military, socially, this wasn’t the case for their good allies like “Russia”. Which can be noticed clearly when Damascus has given Moscow the green light for a military base. We can see the rout of this “political friendship” goes way back to the former Soviet Union.
UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura was looking forward a new constitution that satisfy both the regime and the opposition.
Russia and Turkey had pulled a quite effort to getting the leaders of France and Germany hold a talk in Istanbul for the drafting committee “one third of the seats on the committee will go to the regime, a third to the opposition and a further third to independents”. and seemingly those effort were paid off. However, Sochi was more like a war zone between the regime supporters and the opposition than a resort. When the last demanded a transitional government to make sure of President, Bashar Assad removal.
Surprisingly, the refugees crisis was neglected completely, when Germany and France were raising hope in supporting this new constitution to eventually send their refugees back home.
Many observers won’t even take the trouble in looking through this new constitution, knowing it is a mere written words that won’t have any impact on the situation in hand, while the war is still ongoing.

*Areej Zaher is a Syrian writer.

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