Opposition publishes Syria Transition Roadmap

Opposition publishes Syria Transition Roadmap. But has ‘civic movement lost the war’ to Islamists?

Democracy Digest:

A post-Assad Syrian government should be a hybrid presidential/parliamentary system to ensure checks and balances in state institutions, according to a new report.  

The Syria Transition Roadmap, published by analysts at the Syrian Expert House, addresses issues of reform in the constitutional, electoral, security sector, and economic spheres as well as problems of transitional justice in post-conflict Syria.

But the prospects for a democratic transition appear to be fading with the growing power of “Islamist brigades – fighting, they say, not for a secular state but for a new Islamic caliphate,” the Lebanon Daily Star’s Lauren Williams reports.

“Civil activists are feeling defeated,” she writes, noting that “these ideologically driven, highly organized, and better armed rebels are also increasingly turning their sights not on Assad, but on their Western-backed secular foes in the Free Syrian Army.”

The Syria Transition Roadmap specifically recommends the following:

  • The future Syrian government will be a hybrid presidential/parliamentary system to ensure the presence of checks and balances in state institutions.
  • The starting point of the new Syrian constitution will be the Constitution of 1950, which will be amended and modified by a 290-member Constitutional Assembly, elected in a national election. The new Syrian constitution will be approved by a national referendum.
  • The Constitutional Assembly will be elected in an election featuring proportional representation across 20-30 multi-member districts with an average of 12 seats per constituency. Proportional representation will ensure party pluralism, allowing for the first election to lay the foundation for a strong democratic system.
  • The independence of the judiciary will be guaranteed by completely separating it from the executive branch. National reconciliation will be achieved through a long transitional justice process in which justice is assured for all of Syria’s victims.
  • The security services will be restructured and cleansed of corrupt officials. All armed groups will be disarmed, demobilized, and reintegrated into Syrian society.
  • Syria will gradually abandon its state-led economic model in favor of a market-based economy. Public sector employees will continue to be paid while preparing for the overhaul of the state administrative structure.

The Syria Transition Roadmap’s recommendations are “the result of a year-long consensus-building process and represent the political common ground of the Syrian opposition on key issues,” the authors state. “These recommendations will remain valid, no matter how the Syrian conflict is resolved.”

The report will be officially unveiled on August 14 at a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Ahmad Assi al-Jarba, president of the National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, and leaders of the Syrian Expert House will give an overview of Syria’s imminent transition at the conference.

But the authors may not be in a position to implement the road map if the opposition’s moderate, secular and pro-democratic factions continue to be marginalized.

They are frustrated that “promised weapons from the West have yet to materialize, despite staunch assurances from opposition military leaders that they would not find their way to Al-Qaeda,” Williams writes:

In the meantime, the Islamists have steamed ahead. New Islamist groups are proliferating and uniting, implementing Islamic administration in the territories they “liberate” – the basis of the new Islamic State of Syria.

Incidents of clashes between Islamist fighters and the FSA, in theory administered by the Coalition-backed Supreme Military Council based in Turkey and Jordan under the command of General Salim Idriss (left), are on the rise. 

As the Islamic administrations become more organized, “their control is growing … and so are their [human rights] violations,” said Mansour Omani, a researcher with the opposition-aligned Violations and Documentation Center and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression:

He has documented threats and violence against secular and civil activists across the country and says violations by rebel groups are accelerating. He has documented the most violations in Raqqa, Aleppo, Idlib in the north of the country and Deir al-Zor in the east, and mostly at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria and the Nusra Front.

Charges have ranged from religious crimes, to merely “identifying as secular” and the penalty has included detention, beatings and death.

“One person was arrested on charges of simply “being an intellectual,” he said.