Syrian President Allows New Political Parties, But Protesters 'Will Not Be Fooled'
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has issued a decree authorising the formation of new political parties according to state media, even as a violent crackdown of anti-government protests continues to rock the country.
"Assad on Thursday proclaimed a presidential decree on the law of the parties," SANA, the national media network, reported.
The move hastens the passage of the reform, which would have otherwise needed to pass through parliament.
If enacted in good faith the decree would theoretically allow political parties to be established alongside the Baath party, which has been in power since 1963.
However it would be all-but impossible for those parties to exercise significant power since article 8 of Syria's constitution guarantees the supreme position of the Baath party.
The change in the law has been in the works for some time. It follows other concessions, including the lifting of emergency laws and several pardons for political prisoners, all of which have failed to placate demands for change.
Ausama Monajed, a leading Syrian dissident, said that the move would not alter the reality on the ground in Syria.
"The bottom line is that unless there is a change in article 8 of the constitution, that gives the Baath party the sole and only monopoly on the social and political life in Syria, there is no point in having parties," Monajed told The Huffington Post UK. "This whole law is meaningless."
He added: “those parties who do come forward will not represent the people of Syria or their demands for reform.”
"There may be some opportunists that jump on the opportunity without realising the true situation, and these are not the actual genuine opposition. These are not the protesters or activists on the ground... These are people who would have a personal agenda to promote themselves, or who are willing to work with the regime and not the knock it down and have a completely new system."
As for the protesters, Monajed said they would "not be fooled".
"They will not go home until this regime is down," he said.
Monajed yesterday told The Huffington Post UK that truly independent political parties are being covertly formed inside the country.
Meanwhile, new reports of violence have emerged from the country after days of attacks on civilian protesters in the city of Hama and elsewhere.
Abdul-Karim Rihawi, who is head of the Syrian Human Rights League, was reported by Al Jazeera English as saying that six protesters were shot dead on Wednesday night, including three in the southern village of Nawa.
The Syrian government has claimed that armed gangs are attacking soldiers, while activists have responded by saying that the protests are peaceful and that the soldiers are actually being attacked by their own side after refusing to fire on protesters.
Independent verification of the violence is impossible due to the restrictions placed on foreign media in the country.
Late on Wednesday the United Nations issued a condemnation of violence in the country, and expressed its "grave concern at the deteriorating situation".
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the statement and called for an end to violence in the country.
“I welcome the UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Syria. The support for this statement throughout the Security Council demonstrates the rising international concern at the unacceptable behaviour of the regime and shows that President Assad is increasingly isolated. It comes on top of a fourth round of EU sanctions put in place earlier this week.
"As I have made clear, it is vital that the violence and repression by the Syrian regime stops. The Syrian people are calling for peaceful change. I call on President Assad’s regime to end its violence and to allow genuine political reform. Until it does, the regime will be discredited amongst its own people and facing increased pressure internationally."