Syria flag Syria: Economic and Political Overview

The political framework of Syria

Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Bashar al-Assad (since July 2000, re-elected in May 2021)
Vice President : Najah al-Attar (since March 2006)
Prime Minister: Hussein Arnous (since 30 August 2020)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2028
Legislative: 2024
Current Political Context
Syria has been experiencing a devastating war since 2011, in which neighbouring countries or groups and major powers, including Turkey, Iran, the United States, Russia, and their allies are involved. Supported by Russia and Iran, but still under sanctions from the United States and European countries, Bashar al-Assad's regime has taken over a large part of the country, but the clashes continue. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah provide the military and logistical support necessary to maintain the Damascus regime.
In the 2021 presidential elections, Bashar al-Assad obtained 95.2% of the total votes, securing a fourth seven-year presidential term. Improved diplomatic and economic ties with the neighbouring countries, notably Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, led some analysts to think that the normalization process may cause Damascus to demonstrate less commitment to the political track (Security Council Report). The country is in a dire situation, exacerbated by the United States Caesar Act sanctions package, which was extended through the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act voted in 2024.
In March 2023, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reshuffled the government's cabinet in response to rising prices and food shortages exacerbated by the country's severe economic crisis, compounded by the February 6th earthquake. In early May 2023, Syria was allowed back into the regional cooperation body, the Arab League after being suspended from the body for more than a decade, as members of the Arab League said there was no other solution but to deal directly with the Assad government again.
In September, President Bashar al-Assad visited China, where he met with President Xi Jinping and endorsed a strategic partnership with China concerning infrastructure, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. In January 2024, Israel launched attacks on positions in Syria and Lebanon, as part of its ongoing campaign against opposing militaries and armed forces in the Middle East, further exacerbating the crisis in the area.
Main Political Parties
The main political coalition in power in Syria, the National Progressive Front (FNP), brings together parties supporting the nationalist and socialist policies of President Al-Assad.
It regroups :
- Party "Baath", or Socialist Party of the Arab Renaissance: party of President Assad, in power since 1949
- Syrian Social Nationalist Party: advocates for Syrian nationalism and pan-Arabism, emphasizing secularism and the unity of Syrian territory.
- Party of Unionist Socialists: promotes socialist principles and unionism within Syrian society, focusing on social justice and workers' rights.
- The Communist Party of Syria: represents Marxist ideology and advocates for the interests of the working class and marginalized groups.
- Social Democratic Unionists: emphasizes social democracy and aims to balance market economics with social welfare policies in Syria.
- National Vow Movement: a nationalist movement in Syria dedicated to the preservation of Syrian identity and sovereignty.
- Arab Democratic Union: works towards democracy, Arab unity, and social justice within Syria, advocating for political pluralism and human rights.

Amendments to the Constitution theoretically allow the existence of a multiparty system, removing the clause imposing the Baath Party at the head of the state and society. Despite this, the May 2012 elections, which took place in the midst of a rebellion against the government, were largely boycotted by the main opposition parties. The latter have long survived in hiding or in exile, like the Islamist or Kurdish parties, which the Constitution prohibits in the name of their religious or sectarian character.
The main opposition party is the Syrian National Council (SNC), also referred to as the Syrian National Transitional Council or the National Council of Syria, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups established in August 2011 amidst the Syrian civil uprising, which later evolved into a civil war, opposing the government led by Bashar al-Assad. The council operates from Istanbul, Turkey.
Executive Power
The President is the head of state. He is elected by popular referendum for seven years. The president is the commander-in-chief of the army and holds executive power. It can declare war, issue laws, amend the constitution and appoint civilian and military personnel. He also appoints the Prime Minister (head of government) and his Council of Ministers, for as long as he wishes.
Legislative Power

The legislative power is unicameral in Syria. The parliament is called the People's Council (Majlis al-Shaab). It has 250 seats and its members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Syria has been under a state of emergency since 1963, which gives the President special powers.

The assembly convenes at least thrice annually, and on special occasions summoned by either the council's president or the country's president. Prior to 2012, the council predominantly functioned as a body to endorse Syria's single-party system and affirm the legislative activities of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party.

 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
173/180

Source: World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders

 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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Latest Update: February 2024