Amendment to Syrian Election Law

A new decree on elections in Syria was issued today.

Idaf supplied this English summary and comment:

The new amendment to the Syrian “elections law” now organizes the funding and management of election campaigns. Candidates are now allowed by law to promote their agendas on state run media as well as raise funds for their campaign.

This is an important amendment to the election law. Earlier, most candidates were only depending on their family names, tribes, sects, bribes etc. for votes. The new law also prohibits candidates from providing “services and financial assistance” prior to elections. This is one of the most important points in the new law IMHO as it will limit the bribes that dominate election campaigns in Syria (the dominant trend in elections in developing countries).

Ehsani2 responded to Idaf with the following critique.

One of the commentators highlighted the new amendment to the election law after it was made public this morning.

Idaf’s conclusion regarding the new amendment to the election law was that “it will limit the bribes that dominate election campaigns in Syria.”

First, this amendment only applies to the independents, which make up 84 of the 253-seat assembly. Please note that this is conveniently just below the one third that is needed to implement article 91 of the constitution for example (it is 33.2%). Moreover, 43 of the 84 so-called independents must belong to the “ummal and Fallaheen” group. The other 41 can come from “other” classes of society. The Baath party (134 members) dominates the proceedings by being a member of the National Progressive Front, a grouping of parties that attempts to give the impression that this is not a one-party political system. The 35 members that make up this group are supposed to represent Communists, Arab Socialists and Nationalists.

For those interested in the constitution and its amendments, you can visit:

http://www.parliament.gov.sy/ar/law.php

This brings us back to the $57,000 equivalent that is the new spending cap for the 84 independent candidates. Remember that 43 of them belong to the “ummal and Fallaheen” group. Presumably, these individuals could not possibly spend $57,000 on campaign advertising. This leaves us with 41 members who will have to pay a penalty of 10 times any excess spending over the cap. Moreover, they are forbidden from offering any “services, monetary or in-kind help” to individuals, unions, sports clubs or any non-officials parties. Parties that accept to receive any such help from candidates are also also forbidden from doing so.

Instead of making the system more democratic by increasing the percentage of independents that can run, the new amendment is designed to exclude independently wealthy candidates from ever thinking of applying.

This rubber-stamping branch of government was already in a shameful state of existence. Idaf’s statement above did nothing to highlight this fact. Instead, it gave the socialist/communist impression that wealthy candidates must be bad for the country since they can buy their way in this already ineffective body.

For true change to take place, Mr. Assad should have raised the 33.2% limit of the independent candidates rather than worry about how much they spend on their advertising campaigns. That would have served the country more than this populist self-serving draconian amendment ever will.

Comments (93)


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51. Ford Prefect said:

John Kilian raises a very interesting point regarding the rise, fall, and the potential rise again of Washington’s neocon Zionists. One of the best historical perspective of the neocons can be found here. (Sorry Josh, the document is over 16 pages and cannot be pasted here, but IRC’s Rightweb is there to stay if we all keep supporting them!)

http://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/3713

P.S. Sorry Josh, the document is over 16 pages and cannot be pasted here, but IRC’s Rightweb is there to stay if we all keep supporting them!)

P.S.S. Why are there still people thinking and discussing ideas on this blog about majorities and minorities along religious cleavages? I thought the educated and professional Syrians in Diaspora have overcome these biases and can think clearly as one people.

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January 5th, 2007, 9:49 am

 

52. Ford Prefect said:

Ausamaa,

I agree with your relative’s observations. I just returned from Homs and Damascus myself and noticed no increased Mukhabarat presence (although I wished to see more relative to more than 800,000 Iraqi refuges around – not to mention Lebanese Mousads running free everywhere). However, I did notice a huge swell of population, people are just everywhere, and Damascus is looking more and more like Cairo. While the regime hangs on to power, I did notice a genuine patriotism and “my cousin and I against the stranger” mentality – causing an upsurge of support to Bashar.

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January 5th, 2007, 10:01 am

 

53. 3antar said:

“…She then looked me in the eyes and asked me the Question: Are all of you 17 million Syrians cowards ?

What can I answer her ? Can somebody else help me? …”

just wanted to comment about the last part of Gibran’s ‘Life Story’

The contemplation of how could a minority has such a tight grip on a majority occurs to many Syrians and non-Syrians alike. I can totally understand why the wife was inclined to pose such a question. Totally valid and holds reason.
But one has to try and trace back the rise of the Baath party and specifically, revise the troubled decades of the 80’s (tends to be called Al-Ahdath by locals). There was a local resistance by the locals and syrians did rise up to the Alawite draconian rule imposed by Asad and co. the result was mass murder as the very minority we refer to had the army at their disposal and were not reluctant to use whatever they can get their hands on to crush the opposition. Being from Aleppo myself, i hardly know anyone who hasn’t lost several members of his or her family during that period regardless of their involvement. People were being arrested indiscriminately. Mind you, Hama got even a harsher treatment. Just look at the rise of Pinochet, a rather similar affair with slight differences.

Then again, one just has to look at the ruthless methods used within the minorty against its very members. Recalling the conflict and escalation between Hafez and his brother Ref’at and their clash in Latakia. The ruling family members will go to any length whatsoever to secure power.

Please dont get me wrong, am not trying to justify any status quo here.

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January 5th, 2007, 10:07 am

 

54. Ugarit said:

3antar said “The contemplation of how could a minority has[ve] such a tight grip on a majority occurs to many Syrians and non-Syrians alike.”

I find it a tad disturbing that we somehow equate this “minority” regime with its dictatorial methods. I for one would not support even a “majority” regime which behaves as this “minority” one does

Sometimes I get the sense that some Syrians appose this regime more for its “minority” status than its dictatorial behavior.

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January 5th, 2007, 12:00 pm

 

55. 3antar said:

Ugarit,
you misunderstood me. I was referring specifically to Gibran’s post. Please read the quote.

I did not intent to come across as legitimizing any dictatorial rule whether its by a minority or a majority. Its like replacing one problem with another. Thats not what i implied. perhaps i should have added that point in my previous comment.
The question at hand is how come ‘dictatorial behavior’ inflicted by a minority is being tolerated. Do you have any doubt that this minority is dictatorial?

But just to make one thing clear. I oppose any dictatorial or authoritarian regime, whether it tries to disguise itself with a liberal democratic facade or not. Yet, whose to say that a totally free society is able to vote into office a democratic government? Is every individual above the legal voting age able to make an educated decision? I don’t claim to have an answer as this is a complicated issue. There are people who would still go out and vote Bush (regardless if their vote counts for anything).

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January 5th, 2007, 12:30 pm

 

56. ugarit said:

Is this accurate (considering the source 🙂

“ASSAD PURGES SENIOR OFFICERS

NICOSIA [MENL] — Syrian President Bashar Assad, concerned over lagging support in the military, has ordered a purge of senior officers.

Syrian opposition sources said the Assad regime has arrested officers over the last few weeks as part of an attempt to quell rising unrest in the military. In an assertion supported by Western intelligence, the opposition said the arrests included high-ranking officers based in several cities.

The opposition Reform Party of Syria reported the arrest of dozens of mid- and high-level officers in late December in the cities of Aleppo, Dir Al Zour, Hama and Idlib. All of the cities are in northern Syria near the Iraqi border.

“[There is] suspicion by the Assad regime that a military coup may have been in the planning,” the party said on Dec. 26. “The raids were backed by tanks and personnel carriers.”

source

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January 5th, 2007, 12:34 pm

 

57. 3antar said:

Ugarit,
not sure how reliable your source is as i’ve not seen that piece of news anywhere else nor have i come across the website.

Nevertheless, clearly the purge of the senior officers didn’t reach enough seniority as it shows that the army and military with its senior officers is still loyal to the president. I guess if it was true, it probably purged low ranking officers if anything.

http://www.counterpunch.com/shahid01042007.html

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January 5th, 2007, 1:03 pm

 

58. ugarit said:

3antar wrote:

“There was a local resistance by the locals and syrians did rise up to the Alawite draconian rule imposed by Asad and co. the result was mass murder as the very minority we refer to had the army at their disposal and were not reluctant to use whatever they can get their hands on to crush the opposition.”

But 3antar look at how you wrote the above sentence.

“local resistance” by the “locals” and rise up to the “ALAWAITE” draconian rule. You think those “locals” (Muslim Brotherhood (MB) ?) would have brought about a less dictatorial system? If you meant the MB then the “locals” would have created a far worse system. Do you agree? Being in opposition to a dictator is not a sufficient condition to legitimacy from the perspective of wanting democracy.

Are you against Alawaites or are you against any dictatorial behavior? I don’t you’re against Alawaites. That’s just a rhetorical question.

I urge people, who want a liberal democracy, to be less sectarian and focus on Syria and Syrians and not as sects within Syria.

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January 5th, 2007, 1:05 pm

 

59. ausamaa said:

UGARIT,

Check the source and Steve Rodan (the site caretaker) and then you can judge the accuracy of the report. Now, considering that Future TV, Al Siyassah, LBC, and even CNN have not prodcasted such “terrific” news, and that the Bush team has not publicized it despie the “fact” that it took place in December, then I would think it safe to consider the above as a fantasy trip by this Syrian Reform Party.

But the selection of cities (which are all in Northern Syria near the Iraqi border!)is nice. Idlib, Aleppo,Dair al Zour and Hama. Not exactly were military coups take shape. Tanks and personnel carriers also???!!!I take the “raids” implied in the report to mean “house raids”; so all those high and midlevele conspirators were on home leave at the same time??

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January 5th, 2007, 1:08 pm

 

60. Ford Prefect said:

Ausamaa, good point: if it walks like a Ghadry, smells like a Ghadry, and quacks like a Ghadry, it must be a Ghadry (fantasying again). Further, since when did Hama, Aleppo, and Idlib become close to the Iraqi border? Did Sir Mark Sykes rise from his grave to re-draw the map of Syria again?

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January 5th, 2007, 1:43 pm

 

61. t_desco said:

General Clark is worried, quoting a column by Arnaud de Borchgrave:

“In the piece … de Borchgrave details Bibi Netanyahu leading the charge to lobby the Bush administration to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, and paints U.S. air strikes against Iran in 2007/08 as all-but-a-done deal.

“How can you talk about bombing a country when you won’t even talk to them?” said Clark. …

When we asked him what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this direction, he replied: “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

… For Clark, this is the biggest foreign policy issue facing the U.S. “I’m worried about the surge,” he said. “But I’m worried about this even more.” ”

Arnaud de Borchgrave is quite outspoken in his column:

“Netanyahu then said Israel “must immediately launch an intense, international, public relations front first and foremost on the U.S. … We must make clear to the government, the Congress and the American public that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the U.S. and the entire world, not only Israel.”

There are signs this is already happening in Washington. Before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika decided the ousting of Saddam Hussein had to become an integral part of the “war on terror.” Eventually 60 percent of Americans thought Saddam was behind 9/11, even though there was no link between the two. Today, the Bush-Cheney team faces the same spin scenario: how to weave the global war on terror and the Shiite powers that be in Iran. This one is relatively simple: Iran trains and funds Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories.

Anticipating the new line, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent-CT) referred to “Iran and al-Qaida” on Wolf Blitzer’s Sunday program on CNN. That Iran is Shiite and al-Qaida Sunni becomes irrelevant in the new game plan that will most probably lead to U.S. air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2007/08. Can a Democratic Congress be bypassed under a blanket authorization already secured to hunt down transnational terrorists wherever they may be hiding?”
UPI

Remember the NY Sun scoop, Iran’s Secret Plan For Mayhem.

British government officials gave the story a different spin on BBC Newsnight: Iranians ‘up to no good’ in Iraq

You can still watch it here.

The follow-up interview with Mark Urban is also very interesting. He says that “… some people are telling us that part of the surge in American troops going to Iraq … will be earmarked for increased security on the Iranian border“.

Bush appointments a cause for concern? –

Admiral William Fallon as CENTCOM Commander:

“President George W. Bush is likely to name Admiral William Fallon, the chief of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific, as the next commander in the Middle East, part of a personnel shuffle accompanying a review of Iraq war policy, a U.S. official familiar with the deliberations said.

The 62-year-old Fallon, known as “Fox,” his call sign when he was a Navy fighter pilot, made an unannounced trip to Washington to meet yesterday with Defense Department officials at the Pentagon. …

Fallon would be the first Navy officer to head Centcom, whose leadership traditionally rotates between the Army and Marine Corps.

Abizaid’s replacement also must deal with heightened tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf, the sea corridor for Mideast oil exports. Abizaid requested that that an additional aircraft carrier and escort vessels be sent to the gulf, defense officials said last month.
Bloomberg

“The selection of a Navy officer to head Centcom could signal the Pentagon’s interest in devoting more attention to countries in the region other than Iraq.

Pentagon officials have raised concerns about the smuggling of weapons and personnel by terrorist groups on the region’s seas, and any military move against Iran would probably rely heavily on ship-based missiles and fighter aircraft.”
LA Times

– John Michael McConnell as director of national intelligence:

“But W. Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who has been highly critical of the Bush administration, took a more skeptical view. He called Mr. McConnell, who made his career in naval intelligence, “competent but compliant” and expressed concern that he might not stand up to policy makers, particularly on highly charged issues like Iran’s nuclear program.”
NYT

Related news:

Bush-Merkel press conference (thanks John Kilian):

Bush: “We talked about Iran, and I thanked Chancellor Merkel’s strong support for a Chapter 7 Iranian — Chapter 7 United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran. It was an important message to send Iran, that the free world wants there to be a peaceful future. And we don’t see a peaceful future with the Iranians developing a nuclear weapon.”

Egypt says US obstructing Israel-Syria peace

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused the United States in an interview published on Friday of obstructing peace between Israel and Syria.

“I believe America is preventing (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert from achieving peace with Syria,” Mubarak told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth during Olmert’s visit to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday.
Reuters

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January 5th, 2007, 1:46 pm

 

62. 3antar said:

Im not advocating sectarianism nor what the MB committed or their method of opposition, or presumably what they could have brought about. Thats an assumption, but we’ll adopt the postulate that the MB would have been just as authoritarian. Would crushing them and everyone around them solve or achieve the right objectives? Clearly not. It just created more MB sympathizers in parts of the country. Once could say that it fed sectarianism.
There needed to have been dialogue, which certainly, Baathists wheren’t interested in. As that could have meant share of power, compromise or wait.. democracy god forbid.

I’ll concede, perhaps i used the wrong word in my previous comment when i said “Alawite”. should have said “Contemporary Baathists”. Just as much as i dont have a problem with Druze yet i do have a problem with Junblat specifically. Fair enough, point taken.
But people have to understand that what we have now is not a result of the fact that the majority of Syrians are cowards. Regardless of what could have happend if the MB had been successful, their initial motive was reactionary to opression. They were singled out because they voiced discontent and more active and organized than other groups. People must not eliminate the possibility that many non-MB members shared the same sentiment to a lesser degree but not the entire ideology.

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January 5th, 2007, 1:56 pm

 

63. Ford Prefect said:

3antar, I agree with you. Also, let us not forget that the MBs were also responsible for acts of murders – I was attending Damascus University at the time of their murderous acts and vividly remember the mayhem of murders and bombings. They did not just simply voice discontent; they did kill many innocent people along the way. They are no different than their Ba’athis counterparts. They now have Khaddam – a hardcore Ba’athist with them. How lovely!

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January 5th, 2007, 2:18 pm

 

64. 3antar said:

what do people thing of them:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hizb_Al-Tahrir

They claim to advocate any form of violence and to be fundamentally political.

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January 5th, 2007, 2:49 pm

 

65. Ford Prefect said:

I think they belong in the exact same age they are fanticizing about – around the year 850 AD.

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January 5th, 2007, 3:03 pm

 

66. t_desco said:

According to some reports, the two students from Tripoli who tried to blow up commuter trains in Germany had links to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The British government recently decided against banning the UK branch of the group, though more radical elements may be using it as cover for their activities. The group stressed that such elements had been expelled.

One of them is Omar Bakri Muhammad who left Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1996 and went on to lead the more radical Al-Muhajiroun. He currently resides in Lebanon but maintains contact with his followers in Britain via the Internet.

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January 5th, 2007, 4:02 pm

 

67. Atassi said:

Ford Prefect,
Let’s stop kidding our self please; it’s a proven time and time that the Syrian citizen’s interest and well being is on collusion course with the regime interests and narrow self preservation agendas.
The Syrian diplomatic and propagandas and Diplomatic channels machines will keep on humming around the clock to cover-up and defends the regime misshapes and shield it form any potential international threats.
You recently told me that any major changes with regards to the regime will only be possible if the army joins and approved the outcome. And I have to agree with you. In the mean time, the Government will continue its offensive strikes and intimidation against the free-voices inside Syria….

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January 5th, 2007, 4:58 pm

 

68. 3antar said:

T-_Desco,
the story of Omar Bakri is about right. It rings a bell.
As per Wikipedia (keeping in mind the source):
“Al Muhajiroun disbanded on 13 October 2004. However, it is believed that The Saviour Sect is to all intents and purposes Al Muhajiroun operating under a new name.”
It seems Mr Bakri cant find an extreme enough medium to express those psychopathic voices in his head. But does that put Hizb ul-Tahrir in good light? Does this guys expulsion signify their stand on violence?

and Atassi, you’ve hit the nail right on.

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January 5th, 2007, 6:58 pm

 

69. Ahmad said:

to ausamaa said: (January 5th, 2007, 9:40 am / #)

I guess your brother in law is a Moukabarat.

Please don’t reply to me.
because I don’t like to have a conversation the moukhabarat.

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January 5th, 2007, 8:10 pm

 

70. Atassi said:

Alex said ” I know that 6 years ago most of the negative votes came from Syrians residing in the US. So for sure it is related to the fact in Syria they don’t dare to vote NO”.
Alex,
Can you please tell us the sources of this important information? Was this released as part of a public information? can we access it? Is it based on a your personal contacts.

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January 5th, 2007, 9:23 pm

 
 

72. Alex said:

Atassi,

The person who told me so is NOT a Syrian official, but he is usually very reliable.

Maybe I should Ihave stated it this way: “a reliable source told me…”

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January 5th, 2007, 9:42 pm

 

73. majedkhaldoun said:

The tribunal court is sure to become reality in 2007,Brammertz is still working,and his report will accuse Syria,no one should deceive himself.
I like very much Hassan Nasrallah,and respect him a lot, but I think he is manipulated by Syrian regime,whose internal and foreign managements are wrong.
the syrian army,now, is very loyal to asad,very unlikely the army will make a move, however surprises may occur,if,and only if(remote possibilty)Bashar is assasinated ,that will be the end of Asad control,Maher is not likable,he will have conflict with Asef Shawkat,and Firas Tlas.
2007 will BE an eventful year.

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January 5th, 2007, 9:43 pm

 

74. Ahmad said:

Dear Innocent-Criminal

Your comment is very funny-very sad.
Because of 2 things:
1- This blog is the most propagandest blog ever made for the Assad regime and that’s what makes your comment funny.

2- I use to believe that Dr Landis is an educated person and open minded (your comment proves the oppositte).That what make me sad.
Dr Landis said that vulgar comments on this blog are not allowed, so do you think that my comment abuses anyone to answer me this way.

Finally I want you to know that all my comment are coming from people I meet every single day. We meet Syrians and Arabs almost every night. We know what they think about the regime. some of those act like they appreciate the regime…but in reality, they do not. They act like they do because they are scared of the regime.
I really wish you could hear what the people say behind the backs of the regime or who work for the regime…at dinners, parties, or other events.

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January 5th, 2007, 10:10 pm

 

75. Atassi said:

Majed,
I hope your 2007 predictions are wrong, We don’t need any assassinations or violent acts. We MUST seek a peaceful and meaningful changes to our institutions and civil societies , I would say, all constrictive elements in the Syrian society, “ Including a reformed Baa’th party and the reformed MB”. MUST be included in the change process. As we have learned form our own history, violent acts will only produce and lead us to a violent and tyrant leadership

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January 5th, 2007, 10:11 pm

 

76. Ehsani2 said:

Majed,

Contrary to what many on this forum believe, I do share your opinion that the tribunal has and will continue to be the hammer hanging on the head of the Syrian leadership.

Thus far, the “ready-to-sign-with-Israel” card has been played without much apparent success (more could be going on behind the scene of course).

The “we-will-light-up-Lebanon” card has also largely been played with mixed results.

Ditto for the “let-us-wait-for-the-baker-report”. The initial excitment in Damascus seems to have subsided as the White House toys with the idea of a “surge” in troops as opposed to a quick pull-out.

This is not to say that the leadership has run out of cards. It may have a joker or two still left between now and the time the tribunal is actually launched.

Once it does start, however, I would not want to be in Mr. Assad’s shoes.

The Lebanese who do not belong to the opposition know that this tribunal is their one and only chance. Were Mr. Assad and his leadership to somehow find a way to stop the tribunal from being launched, this group of Lebanese will lose it all. They have bet the farm and there is no going back for them.

During the last press conference with Germany’s Merkel, Bush gave a strong hint that he favors for the tribunal to start soon. As one of the commentators hinted earlier, Mrs. Merkel did not speak very favorably of Syria either.

Mr. Assad will complete his first term in office this year. He will surely get nominated for another 7-year term. This much is certain. What is less certain is whether he will manage to finish his term should the tribunal see the light of day.

Ahmad,

I do not want to speak for Dr. Landis or defend him. From a personal experience, however, I think that you are mistaken. As you know, I have not exactly been too kind to the leadership in Damascus. Yet, this has never stopped Dr. Landis from kindly offering me an open invitation to post on the main section of his forum. I doubt that he would do this if he were acting as a propaganda machine for Damascus. Dr. Landis is sure not Ahmed Jar Allah of Alseyassah. Every person has his biases and leanings. You and all of us do. Just because Dr. Landis does not share your resentment towards the Damascus leadership does not make him a propagandist.

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January 5th, 2007, 10:29 pm

 

77. Ahmad said:

Dr Ehsani

I answer IC who is helping Dr Landis, IC addressed me saying that my comment is propagandist and I found that funny because:
1- I am Syrian.
2- I don’t work for anyone or want to please anyone.
Anyway I beleive of what I said in my comment
because I love my country and I love my people and I am willing to die for that.
So for him to accuse me of propaganda I find it funny.
In the meantime I think you should all express
the truth,and I know that God will always bless Syria.

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January 5th, 2007, 11:54 pm

 

78. Ford Prefect said:

Atassi,
Things are not as black and white as once would like to see them. It is demonstrably hard for someone like me to project a pragmatic (but not a realist) view without sounding as a regime accomplice or a defender. Well, I am not and I don’t know of an alternate way to describe a pragmatist view without sounding as a Ba’athist or a regime patron. Some people understand me, but many others think that I drive a Mukhabarat Mercedes with curtains on my rear window. Yes, indeed, the regime is all about self-preservation and enrichment while a large majority of the country is subjected to Soviet-era incompetent government. But please understand my argument that it is not only the leadership that is at fault – it is a virus affecting the entire society that is yet to establish a firm identity under a one nation state concept. How in the world would a duly elected leader, a national assembly, or a representative government is going to be able to rule and manage in this turbulent part of the world, where everyone’s dream is to become a president – mostly by force – because they know better than others? Try to name a place, a country, or a system in the Middle East where we can draw examples of a real functioning liberal democracy? (I will condemn anyone who even dares to mention Israel to Dente’s Seventh Circle.) Seriously, where do we see the solid foundation of real liberal democracy in Syria? If the regime is toppled abruptly, the emerging democracy will be so fragile that it will have as many chances of keeping Syria together as the freely elected Maliki government in Iraq.

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January 6th, 2007, 12:32 am

 

79. Ford Prefect said:

Also, can someone please explain to me this wordly obssession with finding out who killed Mr. Hariri that got the West and the UN so wound up? Who was he after all to demand such world tribunal? Did he invent the flying toaster and I don’t know it?

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January 6th, 2007, 12:40 am

 

80. t_desco said:

I don’t think that Brammertz will accuse “Syria”, but it is possible that Syrians will be accused. There are clear signs of progress in his latest report, but it remains unclear what exactly this progress has revealed. Some elements seem to suggest the involvement of an extremist group, others the involvement of an internal or foreign agency. A combination of both is also imaginable.

As I explained here and here, it seems highly unlikely that Bashar al-Asad was involved in the plot (but one should note that the argument is very specific, e.g. it doesn’t apply to other members of his family).

The opposition in Lebanon may have its own reasons to be worried about a possible politicization of the tribunal. Brammertz is doing excellent work, but how long will he stay? And what if his successor is more like Mehlis? (What if it is Mehlis…? Ugh.).

And did Nasrallah really say this about John Bolton:

“… Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, claimed in an interview with an Egyptian publication that former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton had told an unidentified Lebanese politician from the anti-Syria March 14 alliance “get the international tribune bylaws ratified and I’ll get you Nasrallah’s head.” ”
Naharnet

(Does anybody have a link to this interview? Thanks.)

Walid Jumblatt also made some extremely wild accusations (even by his standards) against Hizbullah in the past week. And then there is the ongoing SSNP case. While comparing the various “anonymous security sources” (Al-Mustaqbal: “totally guilty”; Al-Akhbar: “completely innocent”; The Daily Star: “some of it true, some of it exaggerated”), one can’t escape the impression that the case involves a certain degree of politicization, even if some of the accusations are real and serious.

So perhaps the opposition is not wrong to fear a possible politicization of the tribunal. Interestingly, the latest ICG report took note of these concerns and addressed them in its proposals:

– “adoption of a draft acceptable to all parties that guarantees the tribunal’s independence and non-politicisation, including in particular a revision of Article 3.2 of the tribunal’s statutes to clarify – and narrow – the presently very broadly defined circumstances under which a superior can be held responsible for crimes committed by a subordinate;”
Lebanon at a Tripwire

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January 6th, 2007, 12:52 am

 

81. ugarit said:

Ford PREFECT wrote

“Also, can someone please explain to me this wordly obssession with finding out who killed Mr. Hariri that got the West and the UN so wound up? Who was he after all to demand such world tribunal? Did he invent the flying toaster and I don’t know it?”

He was a rich man with friends in the West. That’s the main reason the West “cares”.

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January 6th, 2007, 12:54 am

 

82. Gibran said:

Ford Perfect
I would say the answer to your last question should be like this:
It is more appropriate to ask this question instead: Who do you think you are after all?

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January 6th, 2007, 12:57 am

 

83. Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, the true answer is actually 42. So did Deep Thought say to Ford Prefect. Perfect is irrelevant.

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January 6th, 2007, 1:07 am

 

84. Ahmad said:

To Alex
Please if you could go to http://www.syria-news.com
Go to article that don’t deal with any political issues., look at the comment of the people. then state your opinion about the regime popularity or the lack thereof.
http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=45422
http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=45509
http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=45439

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January 6th, 2007, 1:37 am

 

85. Atassi said:

Ford Prefect,
Thank you for your reply;
I enjoy your common sense and intelligent discussion, I understand where you coming form.
Your wrote
“Where do we see the solid foundation of real liberal democracy in Syria? If the regime is toppled abruptly, the emerging democracy will be so fragile that it will have as many chances of keeping Syria together as the freely elected Maliki government in Iraq.”
Perfect..
I would say , we must start and induce the ultra-painful birth of a new order. Otherwise, “Future-” will soon die before it see’s its birth. otherwise, we will never know what it will be like…
As for Iraq, it’s paying the price of its past suppressed issues and problems, when it’s all done, it will raise and shin.
I can tell you we Syrians are too afraid, cowardly distancing ourselves form the unknown, we aren’t willing take our head form the sand; we are being “Phucked” day and night BY THE REGIME!! We are not even willing to sacrifice the current pains for a chance to experiment and seek “the alternative”. We are so used to being submitted to the statuesque. We could be crucified by the unknown…
By the way, Syria has been for more then 40 some years under an authoritarian system, the leadership is responsible for it people. AND I strongly and morally believe the leadership 99% at faults, Nothing more nothing less.

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January 6th, 2007, 2:43 am

 

86. Alex said:

Ahmad,

“the regime” is not popular, I agree. The president is popular.

Atassi, if you blame the regime for 99% of the problems in Syria today, and you advocate going Iraq’s way if we have to (necessary evil), then

1) Do you agree that Saudi Arabia’s problems are also the fault of its rulers? (they’ve been there for ever too) .. Egypt?

2) Do you recommend they all follow Iraq’s example if they have to? at the same time? or Syria must go first?

What kind of Middle East can you imagine if all the Arab people took your revolutionary approach at the same time?

I know you also advocate including everyone in the change process (baathists, Muslim Brothehood), but you later agreed with Ford Perfect that it is quite likely that if change starts, it wil not be as orderly as you proposed in the other comment you posted.

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January 6th, 2007, 2:54 am

 

87. Ahmad said:

Attassi
You are the perfect one.

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January 6th, 2007, 2:56 am

 

88. Ahmad said:

Alex
If you think that the regime is not popular but Bashar is,that’s means that you believe that’s Syrians people either, stupid or stupid. That is not fair for our people.

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January 6th, 2007, 3:05 am

 

89. Alex said:

Why Ahmad?

The game in the Middle East is still going on … we don’t know the full story, and we don’t know who “the winners” will be.

When it comes to Bashar’s performance, I realize that you, Atassi, and many other Syrians prefer to see the glass half empty. Many other Syrians see it as half full … it does not make them stupid becaue they interpret the unknown and they don’t forcast the future the same way you do.

The BBC’s John Simpson who interviewed Bashar commented “Assad is genuinely very popular in both Syria and the wider Middle East”

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January 6th, 2007, 5:04 am

 

90. Ahmad said:

Alex
I don’t beleive any reporter, journalist or professseur.I beleive in what People are saying now.
Syria-news is one example of what people are saying about the governement.The head of the governement is Bashar,so what do you think they would say about Bashar if they’re allowed to speak freely…that he’s still young,let give him another chance? No they are not saying that anymore,I’am telling you.
BTW. I am your best example, I used to defend him,
but since the opposition in Lebanon started their protest,everything looked clearer to me.Iam against every single things he is doing.
Their is now thousands of blogs that are against him so it’s better for me to go to those blogs than get hiumiliated here because I dont support a President that wants to put the Syrians and himself in the Irans hands.

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January 6th, 2007, 8:15 am

 

91. Ford Prefect said:

Ahmad, I constantly read Syria-News and reader’s feedback. (One doctor in Aleppo is recommending a solution by cutting off the hands of 99% of the Syrian doctors – but of course not his!) We all know that Syria is not heaven and the situation is indeed dire: Inflation, unemployment, corruption, outdated educational system, failed policies, political intolerance, authoritarianism, and the list goes on and on. But one must also remember that today’s Syria is considered the one of the safest places in the Arab World if not the world. Additionally, observers agree that Syria has an advanced level of secularism and religious tolerance that is unique and successful. Not even Lebanon can boast such a secularism that exists in today’s Syria (I admit, however, that faults exist and it can be better). While all of us here on this blog fully agree on the desperate predicament of the Syrian people in how to join the modern world, we differ on the process on how to achieve that goal. One group is advocating a “rip-and-replace” approach. Another is advocating “slow and organic” evolution. A third group is advocating “a return to core Islamic Caliphate” as a solution. A lets-get-the neocons-and-the-Jumblats-to-help-us was also mentioned. Many enlightened (and actually some hysterically funny) solutions are emerging on this blog; all with one common thread: genuine patriotism to Syria. You and Atassi might be right: the time has come to bite the bullet and experience the pain. But I am still on the fence. I will join your process when indicators show that the Syrian people have reached the same level of political maturity as the Spaniards when they peacefully transitioned from General Franco’s authoritarian rule to a parliamentary democracy. What are these maturity indicators? Keep reading Syria-News comments and feedbacks.

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January 6th, 2007, 10:01 am

 

92. Alex said:

Ahmad,

In addition to the excellent points FP made, I would like to add the following:

You said: Their is now thousands of blogs that are against him so it’s better for me to go to those blogs than get hiumiliated here because I dont support a President that wants to put the Syrians and himself in the Irans hands.

1) Do you believe that if some here disagree with you it is humiliating?

2) Do you believe it is more useful or more educational for you to interact with people with identical vues, and not with those who think differently?

Just as an example, here is an excellent blog that you hopefully know. Most participants there are to your liking (for different reasons). In this thread I participated by writing about half the 90 pages of comments … all the others were criticzing me until near the end when we all got quite close to agreeing. There was an Israeli, two americans, two LEbanese, some Anti-Bashar syrians … I was testing on them a proposal for reforming Syria’s Political system.

If you and other Syrians want to move to democracy in Syria, then you should enjoy the process of interacting with those you disagree with, not avoid them.

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January 6th, 2007, 3:33 pm

 

93. Ford Prefect said:

And this piece from Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=2&cid=1167467697495&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Alex, remember when we talked about the subtle changes in the JPost’s tone, here is a sample.

Analysis: Israel’s numerous war wounds
Anshel Pfeffer, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 9, 2007

Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said in his first interview after the Lebanon war that if he could have predicted the ferocity of Israel’s retaliation to the capture of soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, he wouldn’t have ordered the raid. Yet, looking at the current Israeli situation, he’s actually got good reason to be a bit more satisfied.

The media is putting together special broadcasts and supplements this week to note six months since the outbreak of the war. Naturally, the emphasis is mainly on what happened on the battlefield and the homefront during that traumatic summer month, but perhaps we should be looking more closely at what happened within Israel ever since.

Beyond the long list of those killed and injured, what was the most serious damage the war caused us?

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Tuesday: “I would carefully say that not all the war’s objectives were achieved, not the diplomatic ones, or the military.”

Talk about understatement. Add this to the briefing by Military Intelligence Commander Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee affirming reports that Hizbullah has rebuilt most of its military apparatus destroyed in the war. And if that’s not enough, there is also a sizable al-Qaida presence now in Lebanon. Quite obviously, the most significant strategic damage is to Israel’s deterrence force; Hizbullah managed to withstand the might of the IDF with its hierarchy and organization intact and to recoup its losses in a very short time. That’s going to be giving other enemies some ideas.

But even that outcome can be put into perspective. The IDF has at least been given the chance to learn from its operational mistakes, put into motion an urgent retraining program for the combat units and replenish its emergency depots. Better late than never.

What hasn’t been improved one bit since the end of the war is the decision-making process of our political leadership; in fact, that’s only got much worse. We’ve heard so many times about the woeful incompetence of our prime minister and defense minister in military affairs, but that wasn’t the reason the government never came out with a coherent set of targets for the operation that unfolded so quickly – and intentionally – into a war without a clear purpose. Even when it became clear that Regev and Goldwasser were not going to be released by the end of the fighting, the government was still insisting that the war could be measured a success, though they weren’t exactly clear on what scale. This total lack of a sense of direction naturally radiated downwards into the ranks of the army and government departments that failed to deal with a million civilians being bombed by Hizbullah.

Some of the reasons for the lack of coordination at the top were present already before the war. Chief among them was the total lack of chemistry and joint purpose between the government’s two most senior figures, Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz, but the recriminations in the war’s aftermath and the level of public anger put an end to any hope that the two could overcome their estrangement. What began as light bickering is now a total split between the leaders, and that’s not the only breakdown.

Peretz is now being regarded by almost everyone in Labor as the outgoing leader, with four-and-a-half months left until the primary, and then farewell. Meanwhile, no serious politician wants to be seen cooperating with Peretz, and we have an isolated defense minister. In Olmert’s Kadima, the rebellion is still only under the surface but the rising tension with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is causing havoc to Israel’s diplomatic efforts.

Olmert is still in charge – just – but Mofaz, Livni and others are already breathing down his neck. Pursuing any policy save for political survival in such an environment is almost impossible. This isn’t the first government to break up into warring factions, but it couldn’t have happened so quickly and totally if it wasn’t for the war.

If Israel still hasn’t formulated a serious response to the Iranian threat and it is proving itself powerless to block the military buildup in the Gaza Strip or stop the Kassams falling on Sderot; if despite everything happening among the Palestinians, the government is still being pressured by the US to make concessions; if the relationship with Egypt and perhaps Jordan is in danger of coming apart, then Nasrallah can certainly take a lot of the credit for all this.

He destroyed the government’s self-confidence and basic ability to work together. Six months later and it still isn’t showing any sign of recuperating.

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January 12th, 2007, 11:22 am

 

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