By Ehsani2 for Syria Comment
Nearly 23 million Syrians are mesmerized by the recent events engulfing their country. The seemingly boring, predictable and stable Syrian political scene has suddenly suffered its black swan moment. Once the lid was removed, stability suddenly turned into an explosion.
It is not easy to think of something intelligent to say which has not already been covered by others. This forum has been one of the many venues where people’s frustrations, passions, fears and beliefs have boiled to the surface. I believe that all of us Syrians are richer for it. The objective of this note is to summarize where we stand today. I think that there are two central issues that face the country:
1- What is the real level of support that the opposition enjoys?
2- Will the leadership explicitly and unequivocally delete article 8 from the constitution?
In order to answer the first question, I have constructed a simple table. Let us try to answer the following set of questions with a simple yes or no:
Are you a Christian or Alawi?
Yes or No
Do you consider yourself or your family (based in Syria) to be well off economically or “connected”?
Yes or No
Are you a Sunni Muslim?
Yes or No
If you answered yes to either of the first two questions, chances are that you are a supporter of the current Syrian leadership. Stability and the fear of the unknown are your major concerns. You are likely to support the reform process but be opposed to changing the leadership.
If you answered yes to the third and second question, then you are torn. You may support a change in leadership but not if it breaks the country apart and/or lead to a severe economic contraction.
If you answered yes to the third and no to the second question, chances are that you have turned your back on the leadership. You are mostly likely to be a supporter and a sympathizer of the opposition.
Is this ridiculously simplistic?
The answer most likely is yes. It is a generalization to be sure. However, I think that it accurately describes the broader trend relatively well. The fact is that the Syrian society is divided on religious (sectarian) and socio economic (or level of connections) grounds. You are for the leadership if are a Christian/Alawi/well off/connected. You are against if you are a Syria based Sunni/not wealthy/not connected.
Will The Syrian leadership do away with article 8 of the constitution?
I believe that the answer is no. The leadership needs the party’s support on many fronts. Most critical, however, is the way the party helps elect a sitting President every 7 years. Here is how it works:
The country’s presidential candidate is appointed by the parliament (167 seats of 250 are reserved for the leading party) on suggestion of the Baath Party, and needs to be confirmed for a seven year term in a national single-candidate referendum.
Make no mistakes about it. The party and the palace will take no chances with this requirement. A new party law may well see the light of day soon. It is highly unlikely, however, that the Baath party’s Presidential candidate will run in an open debate and election against the candidates of any new parties.
The current fight on the streets of Syrian cities is an implicit (or even explicit) attempt to resolve the answer to the above question.