Syria’s Interior Ministry reported that the new constitution won the support of 89.4 percent of votes cast in Sunday’s referendum, with a turnout of 57.4 percent. The document itself, available here, features a rambling preamble (I am officially coining the term “preramble”) that touches on the tropes of Arab politics: anticolonialism, the Zionist enemy, modernization, and the glories of Arab civilization. But the term “revolution” which featured prominently in the 1973 text, is no longer present. Radical chic doesn’t seem so appealing when it is directed at the revolutionaries themselves. Instead, the preamble asserts, rather incredibly, that “completion of this Constitution represents the culmination of the popular struggle for freedom and democracy.”
Article 8 has been modified to provide for a multiparty system, replacing the old version in which the baath was the leading party in socieyt. And, giving in to a longtime demand of the opposition, presidential elections will be direct. The presidency has a limit of two 7-year terms, which would give Assad anoth 14 years in power, assuming he wins. That seems likely, since all presidential candidates must have a certain level of parliamentary support. And they must be vetted by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which in turn is appointed entirely by the president and on which he also sits. In short there seem to be myriad ways of ensuring continued rule of the Baath in this “democratic” text.