Syrian government should draft an inclusive constitution

The complexity of the Syrian conflict will not allow easy resolutions.



By Christiane Waked

Published: Sat 21 Sep 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 21 Sep 2019, 9:51 PM

The fifth summit between the leaders of Russia, Turkey, and Iran in Ankara last week showed that Syria is finally on the verge of penning a constitution approved by all the parties. A committee of 150 Syrian experts from the government, the opposition, and independents will be formed to carry out the constitutional reforms and chalk out the contours of a political plan to end the conflict that started in 2011. The civil war has had far reaching effects on the lives of Syrians. More than half a million have lost their lives, over 6.6 million have been displaced internally and 5.6 million have been forced to seek refuge around the world.
Now as the country is looking to start a new chapter, the committee entrusted with the responsibility to draft the new constitution will face existential questions which should be discussed at length.
The complexity of the Syrian conflict will not allow easy resolutions. There are core issues, such as sharing of power. Should Syria be a central or decentralised state? What kind of political system should be in place for the government?
These questions are crucial and could lead to a heated parley. The choice between systems-parliamentary, a mixed parliamentary-presidential system or only presidential­ - needs to be made. The opposition parties, for instance, are against the last option, which therefore suggests that the new constitution could be inspired by The Taif 1989 that provided the basis for concluding the civil war in Lebanon and allowing political normalcy to return to the country.
The Taif limited the role of the president of the republic and drastically curtailed his powers. Such an arrangement could be perfect in case Syrian President Bashar Al Assad gets re-elected.
Moreover, there are other finer aspects as well that need deliberation. The rights and privileges given to the Kurds in the country, for instance. Will the constitution allow them the freedom to teach their language in schools, to register their new born children with Kurdish names, to celebrate their holidays freely especially in areas of influence linked to the US?
Forgiveness and reconciliation are important to create a healthy transitional step towards a political system that must include all the parties but healing takes time, which is a luxury in Syria. Every day innocent men, women and children are losing their lives.
Arab countries have a crucial role to play in the reconstruction of Syria. Diplomatic channels and the Arab League could set the process of reconciliation in motion with the help of NGOs, and also use educational programmes in schools and universities that help civil societies learn how to communicate in order to heal. The media has also an important role in this regard.
Martin Luther King had said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." The words should be the guiding light for all who are looking to rebuild Syria and restore stability in the region.
Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut


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