Politics of Syria

Politics in the Syrian Arab Republic takes place in the framework of a presidential republic[1][2] with nominal multi-party representation in People's Council under the Ba'athist-dominated National Progressive Front. In practice, Syria is a one-party state where independent parties are outlawed; with a powerful secret police monitoring the civil society.[3][4] Since the 1963 seizure of power by its Military Committe, the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party has governed Syria as a totalitarian police state.[a] After a period of intra-party strife, the al-Assad family gained control of the party following the 1970 coup d'état and have dominated country's politics ever since.[5][6][7]

Politics of Syria

سياسة سوريا
Coat of arms of Syria.svg
Polity typeUnitary dominant-party semi-presidential republic
ConstitutionConstitution of Syria
Legislative branch
NamePeople's Council
Meeting placeParliament Building
Presiding officerHammouda Sabbagh, Speaker of the People's Council
Executive branch
Head of State
CurrentlyBashar al-Assad
AppointerDirect popular vote
Head of Government
TitlePrime Minister
CurrentlyHussein Arnous
NameCouncil of Ministers
Current cabinetHussein Arnous government
LeaderPrime Minister
Deputy leaderDeputy Prime Minister
Judicial branch
NameJudiciary of Syria
Supreme Constitutional Court
Chief judgeMohammad Jihad al-Laham

Until the early stages of the Syrian uprising, the president had broad and unchecked decree authority under a long-standing state of emergency. The end of this emergency was a key demand of the uprising. Superficial reforms in 2011 made presidential decrees subject to approval by the People's Council, the country's legislature, which is itself dominated to parties loyal to the president.[8] The Ba'ath Party is Syria's ruling party and the previous Syrian constitution of 1973 stated that "the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party leads society and the state."[9] At least 183 seats of the 250-member parliament are currently reserved for the National Progressive Front, a Ba'ath Party dominated coalition that consists of nine other satellite parties loyal to Ba'athist rule.[10][11] The rest of the seats are occupied by independents, who are nominated by the Ba'ath party.[12]

The Syrian Army and security services maintained a considerable presence in the neighbouring Lebanese Republic from 1975 until 24 April 2005.[13] 50th edition of Freedom in the World, the annual report published by Freedom House since 1973, designates Syria as "Worst of the Worst" among the "Not Free" countries and gives it the lowest score (1/100) alongside South Sudan.[14][15]


Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970. After his death in 2000 his son, Bashar al-Assad, succeeded him as president. A surge of interest in political reform took place after Bashar al-Assad assumed power in 2000. Human-rights activists and other civil-society advocates, as well as some parliamentarians, became more outspoken during a period referred to as the "Damascus Spring" (July 2000-February 2001). Assad also made a series of appointments of reform-minded advisors to formal and less formal positions and included a number of similarly oriented individuals in his Cabinet.[citation needed]


The Ba'ath platform is proclaimed succinctly in the party's slogan: "Unity, freedom, and socialism." The party is both socialist, advocating state ownership of the means of industrial production and the redistribution of agricultural land (in practice, Syria's nominally socialist economy is effectively a mixed economy, composed of large state enterprises and private small businesses), and revolutionary, dedicated to carrying a pan-Arab revolution to every part of the Arab world. Founded by Michel Aflaq, a Syrian Christian, Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Syrian Sunni, and Zaki al-Arsuzi, an alawite, the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, which was dissolved in 1966 following the 1966 Syrian coup d'état which led to the establishment of one Iraqi-dominated ba'ath movement and one Syrian-led ba'ath movement. The party embraces secularism and has attracted supporters of all faiths in many Arab countries, especially Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Six smaller political parties are permitted to exist and, along with the Ba'ath Party, make up the National Progressive Front (NPF), a grouping of parties that represents the sole framework of legal political party participation for citizens. While created ostensibly to give the appearance of a multi-party system, the NPF is dominated by the Ba'ath Party and does not change the essentially one-party character of the political system. Non-Ba'ath Party members of the NPF exist as political parties largely in name only and conform strictly to Ba'ath Party and government policies. There were reports in 2000 that the government was considering legislation to expand the NPF to include new parties and several parties previously banned; these changes have not taken place. However, one such party- the Syrian Social Nationalist Party- was legalised in 2005.

Traditionally, the parties of the NPF accepted the Arab nationalist and nominally socialist ideology of the government. However, the SSNP was the first party that is neither socialist nor Arab nationalist in orientation to be legalised and admitted to the NPF. This has given rise to suggestions[by whom?] that broader ideological perspectives would be afforded some degree of toleration in the future, but this did not occur: ethnically-based (Kurdish and Assyrian) parties continue to be repressed, most opposition parties are illegal, and a strict ban on religious parties is still enforced.

Syria's Emergency Law was in force from 1963, when the Ba'ath Party came to power, until 21 April 2011 when it was rescinded by Bashar al-Assad (decree 161). The law, justified on the grounds of the continuing war with Israel and the threats posed by terrorists, suspended most constitutional protections.[13][16]

Government administrationEdit

Leadership in Damascus:

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President Bashar al-Assad Ba'ath Party 17 July 2000
Prime Minister Hussein Arnous Ba'ath Party 11 June 2020

Leadership of the Syrian opposition in Idlib:

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President Salem al-Meslet Independent 12 July 2021
Prime Minister Abdurrahman Mustafa Independent 30 June 2019

The previous Syrian constitution of 1973 vested the Ba'ath Party (formally the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party) with leadership functions in the state and society and provided broad powers to the president. The president, approved by referendum for a 7-year term, was also Secretary General of the Ba'ath Party and leader of the National Progressive Front. During the 2011–2012 Syrian uprising, a new constitution was put to a referendum. Amongst other changes, it abolished the old article 8 which entrenched the power of the Ba'ath party. The new article 8 reads: "The political system of the state shall be based on the principle of political pluralism, and exercising power democratically through the ballot box".[17] In a new article 88, it introduced presidential elections and limited the term of office for the president to seven years with a maximum of one re-election.[18] The referendum resulted in the adoption of the new constitution, which came into force on 27 February 2012.[19] The president has the right to appoint ministers (Council of Ministers), to declare war and states of emergency, to issue laws (which, except in the case of emergency, require ratification by the People's Council), to declare amnesty, to amend the constitution, and to appoint civil servants and military personnel. The late President Hafiz al-Asad was confirmed by unopposed plebiscites five times. His son and current President Bashar al-Asad, was confirmed by an unopposed referendum in July 2000. He was confirmed again on 27 May 2007 with 97.6% of the vote[5][20]

Along with the National Progressive Front, the president decides issues of war and peace and approves the state's 5-year economic plans. The National Progressive Front also acts as a forum in which economic policies are debated and the country's political orientation is determined.

The Syrian constitution of 2012 requires that the president be Muslim but does not make Islam the state religion. The judicial system in Syria is an amalgam of Ottoman, French, and Islamic laws, with three levels of courts: courts of first instance, courts of appeals, and the constitutional court, the highest tribunal. In addition, religious courts handle questions of personal and family law.

The Ba'ath Party emphasizes socialism and secular Pan-Arabism. Despite the Ba'ath Party's doctrine on building national rather than ethnic identity, the issues of ethnic, religious, and regional allegiances still remain important in Syria.

Political parties and electionsEdit

The last parliamentary election was on 19 July 2020 and the results were announced on 20 July.[21]

Party or allianceSeats
National Progressive FrontBa'ath Party167
Syrian Social Nationalist Party3
Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash)3
Socialist Unionist Party2
Arab Socialist Union Party3
National Covenant Party2
Syrian Communist Party (Faisal)1
Arabic Democratic Union Party1
Democratic Socialist Unionist Party1
Source: Middle East Institute[21]


  1. ^ "Syria: Government". CIA World Factbook. Archived from the original on 3 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Syrian Arab Republic: Constitution, 2012". refworld. 26 February 2021. Archived from the original on 5 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Freedom in the World 2023: Syria". Freedom House. Archived from the original on 9 March 2023.
  4. ^ Lucas, Scott (25 February 2021). "How Assad Regime Tightened Syria's One-Party Rule". EA Worldview. Archived from the original on 25 February 2021.
  5. ^ a b "The World Factbook – Central Intelligence Agency". cia.gov. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  6. ^ Syria 101: 4 attributes of Assad's authoritarian regime - Ariel Zirulnick
  7. ^ Karam, Zeina (12 November 2020). "In ruins, Syria marks 50 years of Assad family rule". AP News. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020.
  8. ^ Syria's state of emergency, Al Jazeera, 17 April 2011.
  9. ^ Article 8 of the Constitution
  10. ^ "Syria". Freedom House. Archived from the original on 19 March 2022.
  11. ^ "Syria 2022 Human Rights Report" (PDF). United States Department of State. pp. 70, 71. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 March 2023.
  12. ^ Manea, Elham (2011). The Arab State and Women's Rights: The Trap of Authoritarian Governance. 711 Third Avenue, NY 10017, New York, USA: Routledge. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-415-61773-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  13. ^ a b "Syria". Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  14. ^ "Freedom in the World 2023: Syria". Freedom House. Archived from the original on 9 March 2023.
  15. ^ "Freedom in the World: 2023" (PDF) (50th anniversary ed.). March 2023: 31 – via Freedom House. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Decrees on Ending State of Emergency, Abolishing SSSC, Regulating Right to Peaceful Demonstration Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Syrian Arab News Agency, 22 April 2011
  17. ^ "SANA Syrian News Agency - Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic Approved in Popular Referendum on February 27, 2012, Article 8". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  18. ^ "SANA Syrian News Agency - Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic Approved in Popular Referendum on February 27, 2012, Article 88". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Presidential Decree on Syria's New Constitution". Syrian Arab News Agency. 28 February 2012. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  20. ^ Wright, Dreams and Shadows, (2008), p.261
  21. ^ a b Karam Shaar; Samy Akil (28 January 2021). "Inside Syria's Clapping Chamber: Dynamics of the 2020 Parliamentary Elections". Middle East Institute. Retrieved 29 April 2021.

Further readingEdit

  • Raymond Hinnebusch: The Political Economy of Economic Liberalization in Syria, in: International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 27 - Nr. 3, August 1995, S. 305–320.
  • Raymond Hinnebusch: State, Civil Society, and Political Change in Syria, in: A.R. Norton: Civil Society in the Middle East, Leiden, 1995.
  • Ismail Küpeli: Ibn Khaldun und das politische System Syriens - Eine Gegenüberstellung, München, 2007, ISBN 978-3-638-75458-3 (critical approach with reference to the political theory of Ibn Khaldun)
  • Moshe Ma’oz / Avner Yaniv (Ed.): Syria under Assad, London, 1986.


  1. ^ Sources describing Syria as a totalitarian state:
    • Khamis, B. Gold, Vaughn, Sahar, Paul, Katherine (2013). "22. Propaganda in Egypt and Syria's "Cyberwars": Contexts, Actors, Tools, and Tactics". In Auerbach, Castronovo, Jonathan, Russ (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies. 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016: Oxford University Press. p. 422. ISBN 978-0-19-976441-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
    • Wieland, Carsten (2018). "6: De-neutralizing Aid: All Roads Lead to Damascus". Syria and the Neutrality Trap: The Dilemmas of Delivering Humanitarian Aid Through Violent Regimes. 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK: I. B. Tauris. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7556-4138-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
    • Meininghaus, Esther (2016). "Introduction". Creating Consent in Ba'thist Syria: Women and Welfare in a Totalitarian State. I. B. Tauris. pp. 1–33. ISBN 978-1-78453-115-7.
    • Sadiki, Larbi; Fares, Obaida (2014). "12: The Arab Spring Comes to Syria: Internal Mobilization for Democratic Change, Militarization and Internationalization". Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring: Rethinking Democratization. Routledge. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-415-52391-2.

External linksEdit