MESOP : Russia finishes draft for new Syria constitution: report / The proposed draft constitution for Syria calls for decentralizing power in the country.


BEIRUT – NOW MEDIA  25 May 2016 – Russia has put the finishing touches on its proposed draft constitution for Syria as part of the stalled peace process being brokered by Washington and Moscow that calls for a new constitution to be put up for a referendum in the fall. Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar—which has an editorial line supportive of the Bashar al-Assad regime—reported Tuesday morning that Russia’s draft constitution strips Syria’s presidency of some of its powers and ensures the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.

According to the report, the draft proposes “substantial amendments” to the current constitution, including moving the authority of legislation away from the presidency while granting additional powers to the Council of Ministers, which currently serves at the whims of President Bashar al-Assad.

Al-Akhbar reported that the Russian draft also “gives broad powers to local administrations” that in effect would decentralize powers, which appears to be a potential concession aimed to gain the favor of the de-facto autonomous Kurdish cantons of northern Syria that have moved in recent months to create their own federal system. Unlike current Syrian regime laws that stifle the expression of Kurdish expression, the new constitution aims to enshrine the rights of local regions to use “the language of the majority of the population” in addition to the country’s official language of Arabic.

Sectarian and ethnic minorities are also guaranteed legislative representation, according to Al-Akhbar. The newspaper also claimed that the Russian draft drops the “socialistic and nationalistic” phraseology enshrined in the current constitution, which was approved in a controversial February 2012 referendum held during the early months of the Syrian uprising. The first article of Moscow’s proposed constitution labels the country as the “Republic of Syria” instead of its current designation as the “Syrian Arab Republic,” while also dropping the present constitution’s oath to “work to achieve social justice and the unity of the Arab nation.”

Instead, the draft calls for a “free economy” and “patriotism,” according to the lengthy article published by the Lebanese newspaper. Washington and Moscow have labored to kick-start a transition process in war-torn Syria that would follow the approval of a new constitution, which US Secretary of State John Kerry in March voiced hope would be ready by August.

Indirect peace talks between the opposition and regime have fallen apart since, while the Cessation of Hostilities that began in late February look set to completely fall apart as fighting continues to rage across the country.

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated the Arabic-language source material.

Al-Akhbar reported that the Russian draft also “gives broad powers to local administrations.