AnalysisHomeMunther Khaddam

Re-electing Bashar Assad: The fate of the Syrian crisis’ political solution

Syrian President Bashar Assad will certainly win the upcoming presidential elections, which will be held according to the arrangements of the 2012 constitution. With this, he will guarantee himself a second constitutional term, the last term supposed to be in accordance with the provisions of Article 88 thereof. In some democratic countries, the president usually intensifies their work during their final term, and attempts to implement the policies that they were unable to enact in their previous terms. However, this does not apply to the Syrian regime and similar regimes. The Syrian regime has been built in such a way that most of its attention is devoted to staying in power, and therefore it is difficult to believe that it will leave it after the end of its second term, and it is not easier for it to amend the constitution to keep it there.

Bashar Assad inherited from his father, the late President Hafez Assad, a systemic security state that has little equivalent, in a comprehensive generalization of the concept of security, so that it includes all aspects of life. The real power in this system is that of the security and military agencies, as they are the reference and decision maker in all matters pertaining to the state, authority and society.

In order to conceal and disguise the security reality of the regime, the Ba’ath Party used its allied parties within the so-called National Progressive Front, killing the spirit of partisanship within it and transforming them into tools of the power of the state and a sort of decorative political cover for it. For the sake of the same security goal, all trade unions and civil organizations have been stripped of their unionist spirit and transformed into tools to carry out security tasks – in the broadest sense of the term “security.”

This is the reality of this regime. What is expected of it after the end of the elections, and the formation of the new government team for the president? There is a great deal of speculation, some of which has leaked from within the regime’s apparatus, stating that deep political, economic, and social reforms will take place in the coming years. Some of these leaks, it was said, were from leading sources in the regime and close to the palace, that the opposition itself would be surprised by them.

But what many regime officials said in clear Arabic, that “what the opposition failed to take by force, it will not get by peace,” is the truest news from the leaks. This is evidenced by the failure of the regime to take the political solution to the Syrian crisis seriously. It has been said that the regime’s lack of seriousness and procrastination over the Constitutional Committee intends to pass time in order to obtain constitutional entitlement and hold the presidential elections, guaranteeing Assad another seven-year term. However, this interpretation is completely inconsistent with the regime’s nature. This became evident after the recently issued amnesty decree for prisoners, which specifically excluded dissenters and political prisoners.

In reality, the regime is hedging its bets on reshaping itself, first in the Arab world, and then internationally. Today, most Arab countries have restored relations with Syria;

Today, most of the Arab countries have restored their relations with it; Saudi Arabia is running towards it, with Kuwait soon to follow. After this comes the Kingdom of Morocco and Qatar, and soon Syria will have a seat in the Arab League. In parallel with this, the opposition will retreat with a change in the direction of its supporters. Some of them may find a way to return to the embrace of the motherland, while others may rearrange their political point of view and change their rhetoric.

But the Syrian scene is more complex, as it is divided into several areas of influence; within these are political and military forces that have their own demands, some of which are terroristic in nature, and others more secular and democratic.

In the area of Turkish influence where terrorist forces are present, there is no national political path, but rather Turkish strategic options that they use as tools to pressure the regime not to grant Syrian Kurds any of their natural rights, particularly their right to self-management.

Within the areas of American presence are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its political allies represented by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC). These forces represent the Syrian spectrum in the areas they protect, hold secularism, democracy, and decentralization as important strategic options, and present their preferred model through the Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria.

The regime is now caught in a catch-22: On one hand, it demands the extension of state authority over all of Syria as a condition of its participation in the search for a political solution, but the extension of this authority itself can only be achieved through the political solution.  Russia has repeatedly explained this to the regime’s leaders.

They understand that Russia cannot start a war with America or Turkey in order to reunify Syria, and that the only clear path is that of a political solution – the implementation of UN Resolution 2254 – and the holding of elections organized and monitored by the UN. Here, a fundamental question must be asked: Does the regime really mean what it says and demands about re-establishing state authority over the entirety of Syria, or will what the media calls a “beneficial Syria” suffice? This remains to be answered until the next presidential term.

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