Syria's Development Towards Democracy

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Victor Nguyen


World History block D

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Syria’s Development Towards Democracy


Syria is located in Western Asia, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea & Lebanon in the West, Turkey at the North, Iraq at the East, and Israel at southwest. Its capital is Damascus, where many wars for Syrian independence took place in  history. Syria’s main natural resource, also its driving force for economy, is petroleum. Its three religions are Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, where Islam is practiced by the majority.

Syria’s official government is currently a Parliamentary Republic, where the People’s Council is the Parliament, led by Mohammad Jihad al-Laham. There is also separation of powers (Monstequieu’s Enlightenment idea). The executive branch consists of the president (Balshar al-Assad), the vice-presidents, the Prime Minister, and the Ba’ath Party. The Legislative Branch is the People’s Council. Finally, the Judicial branch consists of the High Judicial Council (HJC)  and the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

Similar to the English Parliament’s House of the Commons and House of the Lords, the People’s Council consist of two houses: the National Progressive Front (NPF) and the Popular Front  for Change and Liberation (PFCL).

In reality, however, the government of Syria is a dictatorship, where Balshar al-Assad holds all political power (the Prime Minister, the Ba’ath Party, and the vice-presidents are all under Balshar’s control). Not only that, the Legislative branch’s NPF is dominated by members from the Ba’ath Party and the Judicial branch’s HJC is led by Balshar al-Assad, which is why Balshar hold so much political power. The PFCL and the SCC hold little political power. Recent uprisings and civil wars started by Syrian citizens gave the PFCL of the People’s Council more political power, but its political power is still weak.

Throughout its history, Syria started as a part of the Ottoman Empire. There are periods where Syria was ruled by foreign nations and dictators. Having experienced sufferance under these powers, Syria lost its patient and its sense of independence rose, causing revolution and independence. Syria’s first independence was after World War I, where Syria itself was free from the reign of Ottomans and became the Kingdom of Syria, a constitutional monarchy. However, France signed the Sykes-Picot agreement with Britain and occupied Syria. After series of revolutions and continuous pressure from the Syrian colonies, Syria gained its independence when France signed the treaty of independence. Syria then established a parliamentary republic. However, because of the Arab-Israeli war, emergency law was established, where series of military parties try to seize power from each other while the parliament remained weak and ineffective. This results series of military dictatorship, where the dictators applied taxation for their own benefits without improving the people’s life. This is similar to the Roman Empire because Rome changed from a republic to dictatorship in times of crisis. Again, the Syrian citizens struggled and finally re-established a parliamentary republic, which continues until today. Such determination for independence and democracy in Syria’s history above clearly demonstrated its movement and struggling towards a more democratic government.

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The struggle for democracy still continues in Syria today. In 1970, after Syria re-established a parliamentary republic, the Ba’ath Party of Syria is formed and its members dominated the National Progressive Front (NPF) of the Parliament (People’s Council) in 1971, which consisted more members than the Popular Front of Change and Liberation (PFCL). The Ba’ath Party then outvoted the PFCL and brought up Hafez al-Assad to be the president. Since Hafez al-Assad controlled the Ba’ath Party, he can freely abused its power and brought upon any changes he wants. Not only that, the emergency law due to the Arab-Israeli war ...

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