Syrians at the Polls: To Vote – Yes or No

Everyone interested in the election process in Syria should read Ammar Abdulhamid's Tharwa Project, which is running interesting commentary on the elections in both Arabic and English. The Tharwa Community has gathered commentary from several Syrian cities on the progress of the elections. The cartoons and photos attached to each article are as much fun as the reporting is discouraging. I have copied a few from the Arabic section below.

The opposition has called on Syrians to boycot the election process. The Tharwa Community site, however, makes it is clear that a number of Syrian reformers are not heeding this advice. For example Bassam Ishak is running in the Hassakeh elections as an independent. He probably does not have a chance of winning because the regime has already selected the four independents that it wants to win in the region. I salute Ishak, however, who I got to know in Syria in 2005. He is smart, educated, and champions the best interests of Syria. He ran in the last elections, four years ago, and won an overwhelming victory by getting some 200,000 votes. He was not declared the winner, however, because the regime supported his opponent. But he is at it again. I think it is important for reformers to keep trying even if they know they will not be successful and the process is rigged.

Why is this important? The regime is constantly looking for the most effective way to control the Syrian provinces. In the Hassakeh region, it failed miserably to keep its hand on the pulse on the population. This was clear in 2004, when the Kurdish intifada broke out, leading to widespread disturbances and the killing of a number of demonstrators and the arrest of many more.

By running campaigns, reformers can demonstrating that an alternative elite exists. When the next round of disturbances breaks out, perhaps local authorities will be forced to compromise with the local wujha, or notables, who can represent the people and bring stability to and region by demanding change and better representation?

So long as there is no apparent alternative to the regime, it is all too easy for the authorities to exploit the situation and insist that they stand alone as the solution to Syria's situation. This has been the Syrian dilemma. The absence of a alternative has played into the regime's hands. I have no illusions about how difficult this is to do, but only persistence and constant work in the field by reforms is likely to bear results. Syrians do not want revolutionary change today. They are frightened of violence. Cultivating a responsible alternative seems to be the only realistic option for reformers and the opposition.

Sami Moubayed makes a different argument for why Syrians should: Vote on Sunday.

Here are some highlights from the Tharwa project coverage:

Evidently in Hassakeh in the Jazira, the regime created a shadow list of four independent candidates that it wrote onto the ballets so there would be no confusion about which candidates locals were to vote for. Most independents who were not on the shadow list have withdrawn, but Bassam Ishak and Alaa al-Din Riziko. 

Here is reporting on the Hassakeh election process:

Syrian  Elector, Hassakeh (6:37 am Eastern/01:37 am Damascus) – This ballot fromBallot_from_hassakeh_2 Hassakeh shows how the names of the Shadow List members were written in blue on the ballot. The printed names are those of the National Progressive Front. Section A is reserved for framers and workers. SEction B is for the rest. Hassakeh is alloted 14 representatives only, only four of them are independents, with one only falling in section A. the Baath has always sought to retain control over workers and farmers, leavig no room for businessmen and merchants. This is why, they have to run always as independents.

Syrian  Elector, Hassakeh (6:13 am Eastern/01:13 am Damascus) – Low turnout continues to be the order of the day in Hassakeh. Local authorities and Baath branches are bringing electoral cards of their members and those collected from various citizens (most likely army recruits, and prisoners, etc.) to the electoral centers. All will be used to support the National progressive Fronts and the Shadow List of course.

But not all bath members are happy. A local Baath member indeed acknowledges that the elections:

are not democratic, but an electoral skullduggery where security apparatuses impose their candidates that we are not convinced of, and that we know will not do anything to the Governorate. I say to whoever interferes in appointing [sic] the candidates in the Governorate of Hassakeh: “leave people choose whoever they want, let’s be democratic for only one day.”

Syrian  Elector, Hassakeh (3:18 am Eastern/10:18 am Damascus) – Voter turnout in Hassakeh is extremely low as as result of the early confirmation of the shadow list (the unofficial list of independents actually supported by the authorities). Baathists are currently finalizing the confirmation procedures as security officers write the names of the four candidates in blue, sealing the deal. 

Syrian  Elector, Hassakeh (3:09 am Eastern/10:09 am Damascus) – All independent candidates but two have withdrawn their names from the elections due to the confirmation by the local authorities of the pro-regime shadow list. The only known exceptions are Bassam Saeed Ishak, the son of a former Syrian President who ruled Syria for one day, and Alaa al-Din Riziko.

Here is another of the Tharwa photos used to spoof the election process in Syria. It is in bad taste, but invokes the derision that many Syrians express toward their electoral process and traditional Africans alike.

Addendum on photo: SimoHurtta corrected me and wrote

Actually the picture is from New Guinea which is located in Asia. Either from Indonesia's part or Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea's chief of state is Elisabeth II. Both Indonesia's Irian and Papua New Guinea are seen as democracies (= US and other international companies have there no difficulties in digging gold and other natural resources. Well the local people are not very happy after swimming in the cyanide and despite of democracy and free trade have not got wealthy).

Memri has compiled a good selction of translations of the Syrian press and opposition figures writing about the elections here: Criticism of the Upcoming Parliamentary Elections in the Official Syrian Press and Among the Syrian Opposition.

Comments (72)

Innocent_Criminal said:

how encouraging!!!

April 22nd, 2007, 7:05 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I e-mailed the syrian embassy, to vote,they e-mailed back saying that they will answer me in 24 hour, it has been days and nothing happen,so I could not vote.

April 22nd, 2007, 7:15 pm


EHSANI2 said:

April 22 (Bloomberg) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
said Iran is “not as close as it pretends” to having a nuclear
capability and overtures from Syria have been too vague to renew
peace talks.
Olmert, who discussed with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates last week the possibility of confronting Iran and Syria,
said he wants tensions over Iran’s nuclear program to be resolved
through diplomacy.
“I hear the declarations of Iran’s leaders from time to
time, and I am telling you that Iran is far from crossing the
technological line” to generating nuclear power, Olmert said in
an interview with Israel Radio today. “To my regret, it is not
as far as I would wish, but it is not as close as it pretends.”
Israel has been urging the U.S. and other members of the
United Nations Security Council to strengthen sanctions against
Iran unless it suspends its uranium enrichment program. Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Jewish state should be
“wiped off the map.”
“Continuing the diplomatic efforts to which Israel is a
partner, will in the end, attain the goal,” Olmert said. “There
is no need to latch on to all sorts of apocalyptic prophecies
which have no basis in reality.”
Olmert, who was interviewed in advance of tomorrow’s
Memorial Day observances, dismissed criticism that he wasted an
opportunity by responding coolly to statements in which Syrian
President Bashar Assad expressed a desire for peace with Israel.
“There is no leader in Europe or the United States who
views Syria as a supporter of peace, and a number of vague words
from Bashar Assad do not imply that Syria aspires to reach a
peace agreement with us,” Olmert said.
“If conditions mature and we can reach negotiations with
the Syrians, there is no real opportunity we will miss out on,”
Olmert said.

April 22nd, 2007, 8:36 pm


Alex said:

“If conditions mature and we can reach negotiations with
the Syrians, there is no real opportunity we will miss out on,’’
Olmert said.

Which means, when Syria is weak enough to accept our forced terms then we will talk to Syria … until then, we will continue to talk only to the weak Jordanians and hope to talk to the rich Saudis.

April 22nd, 2007, 9:09 pm


annie said:

C’est affreux et déprimant.
Mais merci Josh et merci Ammar.

April 22nd, 2007, 9:13 pm


annie said:

p.s. En même temps, les Syriens arrivent à faire passer un message en s’abstenant. Il faudrait quand même que quelqu’un écoute !

April 22nd, 2007, 9:19 pm


Bakri said:

merci Annie pour votre encouragement

April 22nd, 2007, 10:06 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I second what you said

April 22nd, 2007, 11:25 pm


Alex said:

Thanks Majed,

And I’ll second what you said too 🙂

April 22nd, 2007, 11:42 pm


Alex said:

Israel: Syria readying for war
By Ze’ev Schiff

The gist of the Israeli message in its recent talks with United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates is that Syria is preparing for a military confrontation with Israel.

The U.S. message to Israel on Syria, in contrast, remained unchanged: Israel should at present avoid diplomatic talks with Damascus because President Bashar Assad plans on using such talks to extricate Syria from its isolation. Israeli talks with Damascus would be a knife in the back of the government of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon.

No tangible evidence exists, Israel told the U.S., that Damascus is planning an all-out war with Israel. But it is believed that Damascus has concluded that Israel might respond to various Syrian actions and that would be the cause of a full-blown confrontation.

Such an Israeli response might come following Syrian assistance to Hezbollah or Palestinian terror organizations like Islamic Jihad. Damascus would have no choice but to respond with a more extensive operation.

Such evaluations have been made before and proven mistaken. However, facts on the ground show the Syrian army is increasing its battle readiness, munitions production (especially of rockets and missiles), emergency stores and is acquiring more weapons systems from Iran. It has purchased a large number of advanced anti-tank missiles from the Russians, with whom it also negotiating the purchase of Russia’s latest anti-aircraft missiles.

The Syrians have deployed Iranian naval missiles (originally Chinese), the C. 802. The destructive power and range of Syria’s rockets and missiles has clearly grown in recent years. Israel does not rule out a possible Syrian grab for the Golan, assuming that if Israel counter-attacks the Syrian lines it will incur heavy losses. Thus, the IDF’s power has also increased, especially that of the Israel Air Force.

Like the Syrians, the Israelis are upgrading the training of their units and providing them with the latest equipment.

The difference is that Israel is not threatening war on Syria, while Syrian leaders, including Assad, have frequently said recently that if they do not get the Golan Heights back, Syria will turn to “resistance.” In other words, it will go to war.

April 22nd, 2007, 11:49 pm


Bakri said:

Are they preparing another 1967 -1973 haggling ?

It’s clear that what is left for the syrian regime is a war as mean to preserve the regime but the price would be the loss of more syrian lands…and such swap must not pass again.

April 22nd, 2007, 11:52 pm


Alex said:

All options are open. The US ans ISrael are both frustrated after “losses” in Iraq and Lenbanon.

April 22nd, 2007, 11:55 pm


Bakri said:

Alex,be realistic if the international community give the green light for a sudden regime change in Syria it will not take long time to see Hafez Asad statues knock down.Stop believing that the regime is fighting all the world…he is still enjoying the international cover.I’m against such violent change and the international community too ,the best way are progressive pressure from inside and outside.

April 23rd, 2007, 12:04 am


K said:


How about this hypothesis:

The longer the regime stays in power, the more violent will be its eventual demise.


April 23rd, 2007, 12:11 am


trustquest said:

Ehsani,Alex, K, Bakri, Majed why are you doing this? The post is about election! do you have any comments regarding the parliamentary election which is depriving people from their dignity.
It seems that only Joshua is impartial and makes comments on the very important incident in the country today?

April 23rd, 2007, 12:39 am


norman said:

I do not know why anybody wants to be in parlement , Syrians needs jobs , safe and good streets and good trafic laws , they wants a chance to get wealthy and take care of their families , good education .
They know that people in parliment can not do anything to help them and that they are looking to have feathers on their head not to imporove the lives of the Syrians.
No wonder the Syrians are staying home ,They would rather watch a nice Syrian show.

April 23rd, 2007, 1:38 am


Alex said:


I find the French elections more interesting. I am not particularly interested in this year’s elections in Syria, I just hope that throughout the next seven years we will have progressive reforms (economic then political), coupled with national level maturity that can only come from experiencing the reform process and learning from our own mistakes (small mistakes hopefully). We need to mature. Our “opposition” needs to mature if they want to be more appealing than the regime.

There is not “insult” to the Syrian people … I don’t think anyone has high expectations this year. It is a show that we do not have to watch.

But I am too negative perhaps. Joshua, can you ask any regime figure to tell you (and us) if anything this year is an improvement over previous elections? .. maybe there is. can anyone think of anything good about this year’s elections?

I noticed they have more colorful posters and obviously behind these posters there are many graphic designers who can use their copied versions of Photoshop.

April 23rd, 2007, 3:57 am


Alex said:


Not true. Not it is already highly difficult to remove the regime. It won’t get worse. We’ll wait and try to push for faster reforms for few more years.

April 23rd, 2007, 3:59 am


Zenobia said:

oh i definitely agree that the FRENCH elections are much more interesting.

April 23rd, 2007, 7:02 am


Alex said:

Senator Clinton to visit Damascus “within weeks” (according to Champress)

المرشحة الديمقراطية للانتخابات الرئاسية الامريكية هيلاري كلينتون تزور دمشق قريبا

علمت شام برس من مصادر رفيعة في الكونغرس ان عضو مجلس الشيوخ عن ولاية نيويورك والمرشحة الديمقراطية المحتملة للرئاسة في الولايات المتحدة الامريكية ستزور دمشق في الاسابيع القليلة القادمة ضمن جولة قد تقودها الى بيروت ايضا وقالت المصادر ان زيارة كلينتون الى سورية تأتي ضمن اطار الحوار الذي يقوده الديمقراطيون مع دمشق بعد تبني تقرير بيكر هاملتون وهو ما يعارضه بشدة الرئيس جورج بوش الابن وبقايا المحافظين الجدد …وبحسب المصادر فان زيارة السيدة كلينتون تشكل استكمالا ديمقراطيا للزيارة النوعية التي قامت بها السيدة نانسي بيلوسي رئيسة الكونغرس مطلع الشهر الجاري ..وكانت السيدة هيلاري كلينتون قد اعلنت دعمها الكامل لزيارة بيلوسي الى سوريا

April 23rd, 2007, 8:32 am


trustquest said:

I think you guys either do not get it or trying hard to stick to your side which blinded you from seeing the big pictures. This is your home land people, who do you want to represent you, same thugs, thieves and people without program. Do you think that the country can take seven more years of mismanagement? The parliamentary election is not something alien from any of the other subjects discussed on this blog from Syrian Lebanon track, Harriri track, economy track, dictatorship track, civil society track and all what is going on in the middle east. It is the one incident which explains it all and you are putting your heads in the sand.
Mr. Norman comment is very interesting, Sir, you are a commentator on this political blog and you do not know why anyone wants to be in the parliament. May be you should know that what people wants from jobs, streets and traffic law can not be achieved without a clean parliamentary election, and when the government keep on rigging the election, freezing reform in a country which is dying economically and take a lease for same corrupt status for four more years to give the big corrupted figure Assad and family seven more years, then wait for a catastrophe. Disregarding the elector intelligence electoral power for real election ( is not withstanding.
Alex, the nice things about your comment that you are not interested in this election, French election is more interesting and you are waiting for the next seven years election or reform. Unbelievable. This is the center point where other people differ with you and you. You are proving that you are a nice gentleman and have extra ordinary patient. You might leave this for the next 14 years or may be the one after that what is the hurry for. There is urgency in Syria for action and that what motivate honest people.

April 23rd, 2007, 12:53 pm


Atassi said:

The coming Syrian presidential referendum is going to be much more interesting then the FRENCH and AMERICAN elections for sure…  .

April 23rd, 2007, 2:20 pm


Zenobia said:

The outcome of the French presidential election is potentially going to have more effect on Syria for the coming year or so than the elections in Syria (parlimentary and presidential for that matter) will. Ironically.

April 23rd, 2007, 2:46 pm


Atassi said:

I trust that our “national opposition” groups are more mature than your Damascus regime. Your regime needs to be reformed first. The regime needs to be FORCED to reform and FORCED to except other ideas. The rotten awful Dinosaurs of Damascus need to be REFORMED Mr Alex.
I agree with you Alex, There is not “insult” to the Syrian people, because its beyond “insult” it’s more like betrayal and duplicity…

Sure they still need seven more years!! More Time is required to amass bigger and bigger fortune and to make sure Syria completely bankrupted from any natural resources!

April 23rd, 2007, 2:52 pm


Alex said:


Please read my comments to Bilal in the previous post. I hope it can explain why I am so patient.


Sarcasm aside, I think most people in the Middle East are looking forward to the next American elections more than any other local elections.

April 23rd, 2007, 2:54 pm


Atassi said:

Syrian election ends amid reportedly low turnout

23 April 2007

Agence France Presse
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007 All reproduction and presentation rights reserved.

DAMASCUS, April 23, 2007 (AFP) –

Voting for Syria’s parliament ended on Monday with reportedly low turnout and a widespread lack of enthusiasm for the two-day polls which opposition activists had urged supporters to boycott.

Nearly 12 million Syrians were eligible to vote, according to the official SANA news agency, which also reported that 2,500 candidates stood for the 250 seats in the assembly. Results were expected to be announced on Tuesday.

The vote took place “in total freedom and transparency,” SANA said on Monday, without giving turnout figures for the first day’s vote on Sunday.

“Turnout is low but higher than yesterday,” an official at a downtown Damascus polling station told AFP shortly before polls closed, walls behind him featuring posters of President Bashar al-Assad with his father and predecessor Hafez.

“Citizens, elections are a national democratic celebration. Vote for whoever you think is the most competent,” read a nearby interior ministry sign.

While turnout on Monday appeared low at several other polling stations visited by AFP in the capital, an AFP photographer in Damascus’ poorer southern districts reported “relatively high turnout” with people queueing to vote.

Residents appeared split on whether the election, totally lacking in suspense for most people, would bring any change.

Of the 250 seats, 167 are reserved for the ruling National Progressive Front (NPF) coalition, led by Assad’s Baath party. The party itself is guaranteed 131 seats, or 52 percent of the total.

The other 83 seats are allocated to so-called independent candidates “close to the authorities,” according to lawyer Hassan Abdel-Azim, spokesman for six banned, but largely tolerated, parties operating under the umbrella National Democratic Rally (NDR).

Abdel-Azim said it was “pointless to take part in an election whose results are known in advance… The NPF will come out the winner,” as it has done in all organised elections since 1973.

Even the official Tishrin daily said last week that Syrians “have lost their enthusiasm for the parliamentary elections.”

In Syria’s second city of Aleppo, in the north, “candidates were disappointed by the low turnout,” the independent Al-Watan daily reported on Monday.

Interior Minister Bassam Abdel-Majid, in a statement on state television, had urged Syrians to turn out in force: “Your participation is a contribution to consolidating democracy and activating the role of parliament in drawing up decisions,” he said.

In a swipe at Washington, which had said Syria’s election was unlikely to be free and fair, an official Syrian newspaper said Damascus had never needed “democratic” advice from abroad.

Late in 2005, opposition parties which are tolerated but have no legal status launched an appeal for “democratic change” in Syria, but the plea failed to bring positive action.

The following May, the authorities jailed 10 opposition figures who had signed a statement seeking reform in the country’s relations with Lebanon, where Syria was the power-broker for nearly three decades.

Among other demands, the opposition wants a modern law authorising the creation of parties other than the Baath and its allies, and abrogation of the state of emergency which has been in force since 1963.

April 23rd, 2007, 2:58 pm


Atassi said:

UPDATE: Syrians Vote For Parliament; Critics Say Poll A Farce

23 April 2007

Dow Jones International News
(c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

(Updates an item that ran at 0846 GMT with fresh quote, polls close, opposition estimate of turnout, women candidates)

DAMASCUS (AP)–Syrians voted for a second day Monday in tightly controlled parliamentary elections that have been marred by opposition cries of farce and an apparent low turnout.

“I don’t really think anything is going to change, but I wanted to vote anyway,” said a shoe-shop owner, Inas Kokash, 28, after casting his ballot. “It’s better to do something than to do nothing at all.”

Electoral officials declined to give any idea of how many voters passed through the pollings stations, which closed at 2 p.m. local time (1100GMT) on Monday. But opposition supporters, who declined to give their names for fear of retribution, said they thought the turnout would be between 6% and 10%.

State newspapers said there was “massive participation” and “fierce competition” in Sunday’s polling, the first of the two-day election, but they provided no figures for turnout.

The government reserves the majority of seats in the 250-seat parliament for candidates from the ruling coalition. But Syria hopes the election will soften its authoritarian image and perhaps ease its international isolation.

The opposition called for a boycott, saying the results were known in advance, and that Syria needed an election law that provided for free and fair polling. Some government critics said the boycott campaign was responsible for the vote being even lower than usual.

Results are not expected before Wednesday.

The election is the second since President Bashar Assad took over after the death of his father, Hafez Assad, in 2000. Many had high hopes at the beginning of Bashar’s term, when pro-democracy activists were given a measure of freedom. But his regime failed to enact political reform and quickly clamped down on opponents.

Still, in the Arab world, where some countries do not have elections and others vote for bodies with very limited power, Syria’s parliamentary elections and its limited tolerance of criticism mark a significant stride from the country’s totalitarian past.

For the first time, state newspapers rebuked some electoral candidates for offering little or nothing in the way of programs.

Another small change is that the number of women legislators is expected to rise. The outgoing assembly had only 30 women among its 250 members, but 158 females stood in this election.

Some 2,500 candidates are running for the National Assembly in this country of 18.6 million people. Authorities have said that around 7 million citizens are eligible to vote.

The ruling Baath Party and the National Progressive Front -a cluster of nine smaller political allies -are assured victory because the constitution reserves two-thirds of the legislature for candidates from the ruling coalition.

The remaining seats will be filled by independents whose candidacy has been approved by the government.

Last week, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, J. Scott Carpenter, described the vote as meaningless and “a missed opportunity” for change.

April 23rd, 2007, 3:10 pm


K said:

What does everyone make of the heavy criticism of the elections in Tishrin and Al-Thawra?

(See the MEMRI link in Landis’s piece)

Is it a way to channel popular discontent away from the regime, and towards the hapless parliament?

April 23rd, 2007, 3:47 pm


trustquest said:

Thanks Atassi for sticking to the subject. Very telling these days, it is Syrian trajedy as short movie on the internet. May be a year from now or next election people will get wiser and invet more tools to compact totalitarianism.

April 23rd, 2007, 3:53 pm


Alex said:


I hope within the next seven years we would realize that totalitarianism is only one of many challenges that Syria faces as it tried to move forward. We can not accept to make progress contingent on two rather unlikely outcomes (at this point)

1) Final settlement of the Arab Israeli conflict (Baathi point of view)
2) Removing the Syrian regime (opposition point of view)

There is a lot of work to be done in the mean time. Let the Syrian people decide if and when they want to demand a regime change. Don’t force your priorities on them… even if fighting totalitarianism is a noble sounding activity .. it did not work since it was attempted starting in 1977. Only the majority of the Syrian people can make it work. They don’t need the motivational speeches. The same way you are upset at the regime insulting their intelligence through these stupid elections, I am upset at “opposition leaders” trying to force the Syrian people to take regime-change risks today that the people themselves are not interested in taking.

April 23rd, 2007, 4:10 pm


trustquest said:

Dr. Landis, who are those people with the sticks on their penises, do they represent the officials in Damascus or only the security apparatus. The choice of picture is very nice and telling, however I’m sorry to tell you that Mokhabarats in Damascus do not tolerate jokes or comics like this, from citizens or even friends, if I were you I will be watchful of questioning like other citizens when you arrive at the airport. I hope your blog would not be blocked for this; it would be a great loss.

April 23rd, 2007, 4:18 pm


Syrian said:

The Syrian Elector Blog was blocked at 8:01 and is made accessible again at 11:34. Are there forces inside the government which are in conflict over the accessibility of information critical of the election!!?

April 23rd, 2007, 4:24 pm


norman said:

Well said Alex. to the point , i hope they get it now.

April 23rd, 2007, 4:32 pm


Atassi said:

و حملت وزيرة المغتربين السورية بثينة شعبان على المعارضة التي تقاطالانتخابات وشبهتها« بالاميركي الذي لا يريد ان نبني بلدنا«.
وقالت شعبان في المركز الانتخابي وسط العاصمة دمشق في ثانوية جودت الهاشمي »لا يوجد فرق بين الاميركي وبين المعارضة التي لا ترغب ان نبني بلدنا«, ورات »ان الاميركي يعتمد في المنطقة على المهزومين داخليا وعلى المهزومين نفسيا«.
واعتبرت شعبان ان »المعارضة متواطئة … من اجل تفتيت هذه المنطقة, وان كل الذين يتواطؤون على بلدهم مصيرهم معروف«.
الى ذلك نقل موقع »الحقيقة« السوري الالكتروني عن مصدر معارض أن التنافس الحقيقي يدور فعليا على مقاعد المستقلين ال¯ 80 بين ثلاث قوائم غير معلنة تمثل ثلاث مافيات تضم في عضويتها مهربين وتجار مخدرات ولصوص مال عام , وحتى جواسيس لدول أجنبية.

Nice going Dr. Shabban. الذين يتواطؤون على بلدهم مصيرهم معروف. I hope you are including some traitors form regime too ..

April 23rd, 2007, 4:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I am upset at “opposition leaders” trying to force the Syrian people to take regime-change risks today that the people themselves are not interested in taking.

Alex –

Please provide the complete list of “regime-change risks”. I’m guessing it isn’t as long as you think.

April 23rd, 2007, 4:38 pm


EHSANI2 said:


You have often invoked the scenario of having to wait for the next seven years before Syria starts to experience a healthy does of “progressive” reforms.

This reminds me of a student who keeps getting D’ s but also keeps promising his parents and teachers that things will change for the better with the next report card. The beauty of his story of course is that all that this student has to do is score a couple of C’s before he can claim success in keeping his side of the promise.

When you write that Bashar will reform in the next seven years, I think that one ought to provide a metric by which we can measure such reforms. Vague promises do not amount to much. I actually prefer to stop hearing any promises. Our intelligence has already been insulted enough.

It is easier for students with poor academic scores to claim improvement. Similarly, leaders of countries, which are operating way below potential, can easily boast that today is better than yesterday. But, is this the metric that they should be judged by?

Promising that the next seven years will usher a new wave of progressive reforms is unnecessary. For one thing, it is most likely that by 2014, you will be arguing that another seven years are needed as XYZ came in the way of delivering the promised reforms. Lastly, it is also very likely that no matter what reforms are instituted in Syria, it is going to be a case of too little to late. The demographics and the economic challenges are going to be a moving target that this government will never be able to catch up with.


Your interest in the elections is great. I must admit that I do not share your enthusiasm about the subject matter. I consider it a waste of time. Even my 5-year daughter knows that the process is a joke and an insult to our intelligence.

What can be done about it? Not much. This ugly play will continue so long as the Baath party and this leadership has a monopoly over power and 4500 tanks that protect them from any competition.

April 23rd, 2007, 4:44 pm


trustquest said:

Alex, the problem is in allowing 7 more years, you should not buy the history or people needs for anything. Totalitarianism is the main challenge that Syria faces as it tried to move forward, this is what I leaned from 44 years. Anything good the regime is doing has no value because of how they do it. If you want the good for someone, you do not do it forcefully into people throats. They let only independence compete in the election, over 9000 candidates, to come out and say: you see we have a lot of leaders and they need someone to control them. Good intension is not enough to get the confidence of the people, look at Bush how his naiveté done to the whole world.

April 23rd, 2007, 4:46 pm


Syrian said:


Your pessimism about the ability of the system to reform itself is legendary and to a large extent I agree with you. However, I would much rather believe that there is a small chance that it is possible because the alternative scares me (only violence and mayhem can bring about meaningful change.)

No one buys a lottery ticket because he believes the odds of winning are in his favor; he buys it because it gives him a realistic basis (a small chance) of dreaming about what life can be.

When the government tells us it will reform, some of us will buy a ticket to that lottery.

April 23rd, 2007, 4:54 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I have NEVER bought a lottery ticket in my life. I don’t think that I ever will. Hoping to win is not something that I practice. I prefer to carefully weigh the odds and place my bets. When I think of the odds with respect to Syria, the possibilities of a large positive payoff do not strike me as highly probable.

I prefer to call myself “realistic” rather than “pessimistic”.

The country’s challenges and problems are travelling at 100 miles an hour. The government’s response function to them is cruising at 30 miles an hour. This is not a recipe for optimism. It is more like an arithmetic equation and as you know there can be no miracles in artithmetics

April 23rd, 2007, 5:05 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

6% of the eligible voters voted State newspapers said there was “massive participation” and “fierce competition”

“Results are not expected before Wednesday.”
the results are already known,congratulation to the NPF

Actually; the interesting election is the turkish election,not the french,which we know,France is talk,but no power,the turkish election will give Erdogan higher power

April 23rd, 2007, 5:17 pm


Ford Prefect said:

AP, the list of risks is very short indeed. It includes two items: Iraq and Lebanon.

April 23rd, 2007, 5:19 pm


SimoHurtta said:

It is in bad taste, but invokes the derision that many Syrians express toward their electoral process and traditional Africans alike.

Actually the picture is from New Guinea which is located in Asia. Either from Indonesia’s part or Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea’s chief of state is Elisabeth II. Both Indonesia’s Irian and Papua New Guinea are seen as democracies (= US and other international companies have there no difficulties in digging gold and other natural resources. Well the local people are not very happy after swimming in the cyanide and despite of democracy and free trade have not got wealthy).

I suppose Trustquest that the “Mokhabarats” are not offended if Syrian “democracy” level is compared to level of the democratic subjects of the Queen in that Australian client state or to level of the happy subjects ruled by the “democratic” Jakarta.:)

April 23rd, 2007, 5:23 pm


idaf said:

I tend to agree with Alex on his “patience” approach to reform. There would be a plethora of parties willing to jump and exploit any sudden change in the public life in Syria. The majority of these parties (all external) have interests that are in conflict with Syrian national interests (Golan, powerful state, stability ..etc.). They would definitely jump in immediately when if given half a change. The good part is however, unlike the case of Lebanon, people in Syria don’t think and act in pure tribal and sectarian terms (although these are factors in Syrian society’s collective decision making process). Most Syrians today have got their priorities right and understand that there are many parties itching to exploit their grievances against their national interest. A case in point is how almost all of the 5 million USD (sic) that the congress made available for the Syrian opposition has been refused by the opposition inside Syria (according to Ms. Cheney)!

Someone asked about the different things this time in the elections in Syria. I noticed one major change this time: The regime is begging the people to vote! Check out the non-stop media and awareness campaign in the official TV, radio and press. For a month now, the Syrian TV is raising awareness on importance of voting (just voting and participating in general, not voting for the NPF or the Baath members). In earlier elections, if you were outside Syria, you would not hear about the elections (people in Syria would only know about it because their front doors would be covered with photos of ugly looking men and fancy slogans). There’s even criticism of the elections, the campaigns and even the baathi figures in the parliament in the media. The online media based inside Syria was even more open. Check out this report making fun of the campaigns in Damascus in Syria News. You can either take K’s conspiracy theory above that this is the Syrian regime letting steam out, or take it as a positive change in the media in Syria.

I have 3 notes not related to the elections (sorry for this Trustquest):
1- according to Haaretz, Gates told the Israelis recently that “if you accept starting peace talks with Syria then this will be a stab in the back of the Siniora government”! A “stab in the back”.. this is only used among friends or partners in my understanding. Is this indicating that the it is true that the Israelis were coordinating with elements in the Lebanese government when they launched the war last summer against the Shiites in Lebanon? It’s like gates is telling the Israelis: Hey, these guys (Feb14 bunch) stood by you in the war and now you repay them by making peace with Syria?! I’m speechless!

2- The IMF just released a report where it has very conservative estimates of Syria’s real GDP (only 3.0% increase in 2006). In contrast it gave raving estimates for the “moderate” Arab states. Even “moderate Lebanon” got an estimate of 1% despite all its problems last year.

3-There’s an interesting Tourism investment forum in Syria tomorrow. The earlier 2 versions of this forum drew billions of dollars of investment in the tourism industry in Syria. Ehsani2, I think that you should put your money where your mouth is and go invest in the Syrian tourism industry 🙂

April 23rd, 2007, 5:26 pm


norman said:

Half of the American people do not vote and half of the people who vote do not vote for the people in power yet this conutry is the greatest country with it’s laws opportinities and economic system .

Everybody or almost everybody is satisfied no matter who is in ppower except the fanatics.

The value of democracy is highly exagrated.

April 23rd, 2007, 5:27 pm


Syrian said:


What is the answer?

If the government is not responding fast enough then it needs to be changed. If maintaining power is the only concern of the regime then it cannot be changed peacefully. A violent attempt at a regime change, that may not succeed, would set the country back rather than move it forward.

Are we stuck? Is there nothing that can be done?

The solution to the position Syria finds itself in is not deterministic. In order to see a positive solution you have to rely on probabilistic assessments of the interntion of, at least some part within, the regime to reform and the probabilities of success. Once you start talking probabilities you are talking about a lottery; outcomes with the least probabilities can materialize while outcomes with high probabilities may fail to materialize.

A 0.005 percent chance of successful reform carries a higher expected payoff than a nil chance of success (the cause for a revolution and violence).

I will add that the way the opposition is promoting boycotting elections is not sensible. Symbolic statements are not what we need today. The opposition should urge the public to vote in mass and to vote for candidates it supports. Only then can we see if the opposition has any support within the public which is what, after all is said and done, matters.

April 23rd, 2007, 5:29 pm


EHSANI2 said:


If the decision tree only has the two outcomes of revolution and violence on the one hand versus stability and sub-par reforms on the other, then of course the latter is the preferred outcome. But, are these the only two options? The nation has been led to believe that only this leadership can hold the country together and that any alternative is going to lead to a disaster and to another Iraq. If this is a fact, I suggest to change the constitution to a kingdom therefore and get it over with (per my earlier post). If revolution and violence is the inevitable outcome should the country see another leadership, why are we then wasting our time here?

April 23rd, 2007, 5:48 pm


Alex said:

Fine .

Since we have been debating the same thing since yesterday, i have no choice but to move back to the boring mathematical expectations equations : )

Here is the part where we have some degree of control (from 1 to 100 percent control) … not including the regime’s contribution (over which we do not have control)

1) Option A: continue to oppose totalitarianism the way Khaddam, the MB, and some Syrian intellectuals are today:

0.01 (7) + 0.99 (-2) = -1.91 negative units of “progress”

where 0.01 (1%) probability of success that our opposition will lead to regime change and assuming that a successful regime change would actually reward us with a 7 out of a possible 10 units of progress. And, 0.99 (99%) probability that we will fail in overthrowing the regime (like they all failed since 1977) and the net result is that our “opposition” and alliances with outsiders led the regime to slow down their plans for more reforms out of fear of those who can use the reforms against them, and out of stubbornness, and out of being preoccupied with defending their regime. THis outcome will result in a negative 2 units of progress.

2) Option B: realizing that we all can do own own little parts to reform Syria without waiting for the regime to die or to lead us:

1.00 (3) = 3.00 units of progress.

Which says that we control our own actions (1.00, or 100% probability) that we can work hard and produce some modest 3 unites of progress … 3, and not more because the regime’s lack of reforms make it difficult to do better.

So 3 positive units of progress is better than negative 1.91 units.

ps: Syrian: very simplified, I know 🙂 .. but still useful, I believe.

April 23rd, 2007, 5:54 pm


EHSANI2 said:

My friend Alex,

Let us for a moment take your numbers at face value. The recipe that you are presenting gives leaders in power a carte-blanche to hold on to office into eternity. Are you okay with that?

April 23rd, 2007, 6:03 pm


Syrian said:


The proposition that the decision tree has only two outcomes is a natural result of the dominant thinking on Syrian issues:

The regime is only interested in its own survival

A regime that is only interested in its own survival is certainly unwilling to hand over or even share power. The only alternative is violent removal. Anything else would require a belief that the regime is willing to negotiate the handing of some of its power to others.

We should not fool ourselves into believing the proposition that peacefull change is possible (what some opposition figures are demanding) while at the same time insisting the regime is only interested in maintaining its hold on power.

There are not only two branches in the decision tree. The introduction of probabilistic analysis introduces an infinite number of possibilities. But in order for that to happen you have to introduce and accept the possibility that the regime is not interested only in its own survival and there is a genuine interest in introducing reforms.

I agree with you that maybe we should declare a monarchy and get it over with. At least, when secure in their position, the leaders will try and do some good for the country rather than investing significant resources in the promotion of their own position. (that is, if they are only interested in maintaining their hold on power.)


Mathematically speaking, even -1 units of progress is preferrable to -1.91 units. 🙂

April 23rd, 2007, 6:08 pm


K said:


“You can either take K’s conspiracy theory above that this is the Syrian regime letting steam out, or take it as a positive change in the media in Syria.”

I thought Tishrin and Al-Thawra were government mouthpieces. Am I wrong?

April 23rd, 2007, 6:25 pm


K said:


My objection to the use of mathematical models in political analysis, notwithstanding;

Please elaborate on 2 factors for me:
1. The actions the people must take to introduce reform
2. the 3 units of progress attainable within the limits imposed by the regime

… as briefly or extensively as you like.

April 23rd, 2007, 6:33 pm


Alex said:

No Ehsani,

I was watching coverage in France of hte French elections and one of the Le Monde reporters commented that Sarkozy is like Napoleon III in the sense that he is proposing excessive leadership from above for setting the direction of change in France. He said that the French people are finding that unacceptable.

The regime is not the only part of Syria that needs reform. And it is not the only party in Syria that can contribute to, or initiate progress!

Let us try our best to do our part in reforming Syria, reforming our own mentality and let us succeed in some places and fail in others and let us learn from the experience of trial and error.

We can’t always stay immature by blaming everything on the regime. Despite all the restrictions, there are many more opportunities today for those who want to contribute their small part towards progress.

April 23rd, 2007, 6:33 pm


Atassi said:

Alex, I think your numbers will be more realistic if you add the reformers factors to the equation. If we can add the possibility of a “regime reformed” then the current leaders will not be in the office for ever.
the country will be in extreme need of a best leader available to lead it out of this mess. Please remember being a leader is very different than being a dictator!!

April 23rd, 2007, 6:50 pm


Alex said:


Mathematical models are used in election campaigns in the United states and in France this year. They are useful, not perfect. I am only using them when I feel there is a very clear differential in the expected outcomes from two different options. Such a case will not be dependent on small variations in estimates (mine in this case).

To answer your two questions (in one shot, since they are similar I believe):

Start with what is wrong with Syria today, and think which parts can be tackled without being totally constrained by the regime’s slow reforms.

Here are some examples …

1) Adapting to the competitive nature of free economy.
2) Accepting various points of view with an open mind
3) Reforming education. Staring private modern schools and Universities (many have been started the past few years)
4) Seeking wisdom ! …
5) respecting laws (even if many regime members often do not)
6) investing our time and money into innovative small projects.

When we are done working on ourselves and our small businesses, then we can worry again about the regime. But to wait until the regime is gone while we do not do anything useful for ourselves or our country is often a matter of looking for an excuse to not work hard.

I mostly see “democracy fighters”! … can we switch that energy to fighting illiteracy? .. at least that would produce something useful … imagine if all the opposition’s efforts since 1977 were directed to more modest goals, short of revolutionary changes… which failed miserably.

April 23rd, 2007, 6:56 pm


Alex said:

And Ehsani,

Declaring a monarchy is not necessary or desirable. But there is a third option if you remember what I was advocating when we had a huge discussion at Ammar’s blog last year… at the time you, two Lebanese, two Americans, Ammar, and an Israeli all put my suggestion under the microscope .. I think today if you go back to it you’ll find it much more reasonable.

April 23rd, 2007, 7:09 pm


Syrian said:


What was your suggestion? Just curious.

April 23rd, 2007, 7:13 pm


Alex said:

Bicameral parliament (house freely elected, senate with veto power represents all regions (or minorities)… guaranteeing secular nature of the state).

Secular president and army (instead of Ehsani’s Monarchy)

Freely elected prime minister .. all parties allowed to run except religious, regional or ethnic based parties … no MB, no Assyrian, no Kurdish, no “Aleppo” parties.

Elected prime minster controls the economy.

That’s where I would like to see Syria in 7-14 years.

April 23rd, 2007, 8:13 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Me too.


Syria WILL NOT be there in 7-14 years. Let us get real. My monarchy recommendation is of a more sarcastic nature in case that was not obvious by now. Arab republics are that just in name. We are trying to force them look and feel like something they are not.

April 23rd, 2007, 8:25 pm


Atassi said:

good plan. Please verify

Will sectarian allowed\ banned in the “Secular president and army?” … I mean Debaathification and DeAllawitfication of the president and army is on the agenda !! right

April 23rd, 2007, 8:33 pm


Syrian said:


The path to monarchy is a lot shorter especially when you don’t believe that the authorities are willing to reform.

April 23rd, 2007, 8:46 pm


trustquest said:

Alex: THANK YOU for admitting: “The same way you are upset at the
regime insulting people intelligence through these stupid elections”
I will frame this for future reference; I hope you won’t get punished for this.

Ehsani, if it not for your comments on this section, I would rather playing golf. I will be waiting for your blog to shed more light on economic matter.
Although your 5 years old know these election is a joke and insult, still the regime is kept doing this for 30 years. Man, some people do not understand what 30 years means, they confused between months and years. The road of 1000 miles start with one step, and I hope continuous and new revelation of the regime will lead to this change. And for the tanks part, remember one guy in china stopped a whole row of tanks and we can do it too.
Ehsani, you and I are not the ones who will shape the change from a coup, or public uprising, voluntary step down or regime change of minds, but me and you we could be great force to light couple of candles to what ever going to happen.

April 23rd, 2007, 9:08 pm


Alex said:


I know you were sarcastic, don’t worry.

Atassi. The Presidency, army moukhabarat will still be controlled by roughly the same people who control them now, yes.

Having a proper freely-elected house, and a strong prime minister who controls the economy (and is accountable to Parliament) should supposedly be good enough to fight corruption, and to allow for a much more balanced share of power … would that be good enough? or do we prefer to stay in our 1977-2007 mode.

April 23rd, 2007, 9:13 pm


Alex said:


You’re welcome to use that statement “against me” anytime. I am not a politician.

Can you explain to us in more practical terms what those two candles will do for Syria?

China is still governed by the Communist party, despite the beautiful symbolism of that courageous man standing in the way of those tanks.

And you still have to bribe local officials there if you want to start a serious business there… but that did not stop the country from moving forward.

April 23rd, 2007, 9:37 pm


trustquest said:

I hope we are not going to end up like bunch of frogs croaking in a pond. I’m not trying to make a score here, and I’m not in position to use anything against anyone, maybe others can do this to me, however you admit ion is one step forward. If we can cause change to the country and push for reform and get 0.0001 of what china did, we could save our country and our people. Although change started in china when Nixon visit 1972, the Tiananmen incident following the death of Zhou Enlai happened in 1976 and Beijing spring started in 1977.
I would like to remind you that these changes happened by change, new leaders, Got it, new blood, new philosophies, renewal, change, kick the olds and bring the new, get rid of people who are stalling time………..I can fill words as much as you like.
Second, did you see the dates up, 1977, not 1963 Baath Party taking power, not 1970 Hafez Assad taking power. Now may be you need to go and see what they have done during those years.
Thank you

April 23rd, 2007, 11:17 pm


Bakri said:

Alex,do u really think that more years with the mukhabarati-asadian-makhlufian anti syrian people rule will solve syria’s problems and strengthen national unity ?For sure it will add more hatred toward the mountains and will radicalize more and more the syrian population.What will you gain if the alawite regime remained 10 more years on the neck of the syrian people and the social reality on the ground is going from bad to worse ?

April 23rd, 2007, 11:31 pm


Bakri said:

Alex,do u really think that more years with the mukhabarati-asadian-makhlufian anti syrian people rule will solve syria’s problems and strengthen national unity ?For sure it will add more hatred toward the mountains and will radicalize more and more the syrian population.What will you gain if the alawite regime remains 10 more years on the neck of the syrian people and the social reality on the ground is going from bad to worse ?

April 24th, 2007, 2:29 am


ugarit said:

Alex said: “… no … ethnic based parties”

So also no Arab or Syrian nationalist parties?

April 24th, 2007, 1:59 pm


ugarit said:

Bakri said: “will you gain if the alawite regime remains 10 more years on the neck of the syrian people and the social reality on the ground is going from bad to worse”

So now we’re anti-alawite?

April 24th, 2007, 2:09 pm


Alex said:


: )

معي ولا ضدي؟

April 24th, 2007, 3:51 pm


ugarit said:


موضدك ولامعك


April 24th, 2007, 5:16 pm


Majhool said:

I also expect that in 40-67 years we all be dead.

Congrats to Masr

February 11th, 2011, 1:01 pm


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