Syria says constitutional referendum will be held on Feb. 26


A picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hangs on a wall over the reception of al-Pasha hotel in Damascus on February 15, 2012. Assad has decreed to hold a referendum for a new constitution on February 26, the official SANA state news agency reported on Wednesday. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ


Patrick Baz

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian president Bashar al-Assad announced Wednesday that a referendum on a new constitution will be held on Feb. 26, according to the state news agency SANA.

Assad reportedly received a draft copy of the new constitution on Sunday.

The Associated Press reported that while demonstrations in Syria were at first nonviolent and demanded constitutional modifications, "the groups now say they accept nothing less than Assad's departure."

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The new document reportedly omits language that says the ruling Baath party is the "leader of the nation and society."

The AP obtained a copy of the document, which instead reads: "The state's political system is based on political pluralism and power is practiced democratically through voting."

It also imposes a presidential term limit of two seven year terms. If applied retroactively, this would prohibit Assad from running in the 2014 elections. According to BBC, the president won 97 percent of the vote in the 2007 election.

On October 16, 2011, SANA reported that Assad formed a committee to write a new constitution.

"When the new constitution is approved, Syria will have passed the most important stage of laying down the constitutional and legal structure through the reforms and laws that have already been issued to take the country to a new era in cooperation with all spectrums of the Syrian people to achieve what we all aspire for in terms of developing our country to draw a brilliant future for next generations," said President al-Assad, according to SANA.