Electoral Reform and Political Parties
The Electoral Law Reform Working Group focused on political parties law and the need to establish a system that will ensure party plurality, giving parties a chance to actively participate in rule, alongside the setting of standards for any forthcoming electoral activity. This would guarantee true representation of all sections of society and ensure fair participation for all Syrian provinces and cities, whereby the elections would produce a Parliament that truly represents the Syrian people.
Additionally, the Syrian Expert House specified a number of standards for a modern elections law in Syria, whereby this law would nullify current limitations that preclude the formation of parties. These new restrictions and criteria for party formation would be confined to the parties’ not violating the Syrian constitution, would not call for discrimination between citizens or partition of the country, and would advocate that these parties would not digress from the national interest of the Syrian people and the Syrian country.
The Syrian Expert House designed a new electoral system to elect a Constituent Assembly, whose number was estimated at 290 representatives from all Syrian regions, upon the condition that the elections law coincides with the party law. The new elections law provides for a proportional system, as opposed to the majority system currently practiced by the existing Assad regime. It allows the participation of all parties and political components in governing, in accordance with their true size on the street, instead of granting the winning party all authority. The proportional system also provides true representation for all minorities. In addition, this system relies on electoral lists, preferably party-affiliated ones, and recommends that the electoral lists be open, whereby the voter chooses his or her preferred list and from it chooses his or her favorite candidate.
The new system also would create thirty-two constituencies instead of the fifteen currently specified by the Assad regime and the Ba’ath Party. In this case, the smaller districts create more opportunity for local parties with limited financial capabilities, and offer a better representation to the small cities and rural areas. The electoral districts were drawn on two bases. The administrative division of the Syrian country, which divides the country’s provinces into sixty-four administrative districts, creating the smallest electoral districts possible, based upon the condition that the number of seats in an electoral district is not less than four, in order to ensure the success of implementing the proportional system.
The new system proposed by the Syrian Expert House also ensures the active participation for both genders in the Constituent Assembly, whereby this system ensures through various specific mechanisms the representation of women, commensurate with their role in society. The new system also urges all parties and currents participating in the elections to offer part of their lists to persons with special needs, thus giving them the chance for political participation in Syria’s future.
For further recommendations, please see Syria Transition Roadmap.
For further recommendations, please see the full report Syria Transition Roadmap.
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George Sabra, the team leader of this group, graduated with a geography degree from Damascus University in 1971 and a degree in educational technology systems from Indiana University in 1978. He has been politically active in the Syrian opposition movement since the 1970s. He joined the Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau) in 1970 and was elected to its Central Committee in 1985. He was arrested in 1987 during one of many government crackdowns on the party and imprisoned for eight years. A few years after his release, in 2000, he was assigned to represent the party at the National Democratic Gathering, a coalition of leftist parties that was originally formed in 1979, and he was subsequently elected to the gathering’s Central Committee. Currently a member of the Syrian Democratic People’s Party, he previously served as president of the Syrian National Council and was acting president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces from April 22 to July 6, 2013.
Dr. Marwan J. Kabalan
Dr. Marwan J. Kabalan, the senior researcher for this group, is a Syrian academic and writer. He holds a Ph.D. in international relations. He was the dean of the Faculty of International Relations and Diplomacy at Kalamoon University in Damascus until November 2012. He did research on international political theory at the University of Manchester and at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Damascus University. He is an expert on foreign policy and a regular contributor to several Arab and English newspapers. He was a member of the board of directors at the Damascus University Center for Strategic Studies and Research and is the author of several books and numerous articles on Syria and the Middle East.