Syria prepares for general election

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

SYRIANS are preparing for the general election on 7th May under the new reform constitution piloted by the outgoing Baathist-led government. The 250 seats in the People’s Assembly will be contested by eight major electoral blocs, including the parties of the Baathist-led National Progressive Front that has governed the country for the past 40 years.

But the Muslim Brotherhood and their Al Qaeda allies are continuing their terror campaign to disrupt the elections and derail United Nations’ efforts to end civil strife. And behind them, pulling the strings, are the agents of US-led imperialism and Arab and Turkish reaction.

Syria has accused the feudal Arab rulers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia of being behind a ship laden with weapons that was seized in Lebanon last week. The Lutfallah 11, flying the flag of convenience of Sierra Leone, was stopped by the Lebanese navy and the captain and crew arrested following intelligence reports that it was laden with arms bound for the rebel “Free Syrian Army”. The ship had reportedly sailed from Tripoli in Libya but the Libyan authorities claim they were not involved in any attempt to smuggle arms into Syria.

The rebels and their political fronts are boycotting the elections, which they are doing their best to sabotage. But others opposed to the hegemony of the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath) are joining in the democratic process inaugurated by President Bashar al Assad.

Dr Kadri Jamil, a leader of one of Syria’s communist parties, says there are two kinds of Syrian opposition. The first, which is patriotic and rejects foreign intervention, has its weight on the street, and opposes the government’s security crackdown. The second, such as the Turkish-based “Syrian National Council”, is “non-patriotic...has no roots inside Syria, is dependent on foreign powers to change the leadership, and hopes to come to Syria later aboard US tanks”.

Kadri Jamil, who now heads the Popular Front for Change and Liberation (PFCL), has recently returned from talks in Moscow with the Russian leadership.

The PFCL, which is a front of a number of communist and socialist trends, supports national dialogue and the efforts of UN special envoy Kofi Annan.

In Moscow Dr Jamil said that those who impede dialogue were responsible for the bloodshed, primarily the western countries that provoked some of the internal opposition groups into rejecting dialogue while inciting the external opposition to set impossible conditions for dialogue.

Dr Jamil noted that while the Russia-Chinese veto at the Security Council had eliminated the threat of open foreign intervention it had not halted the indirect interference of the western powers. He stressed that the West was using democracy as an excuse to destroy the entire country, which it actually wants to control, citing Iraq and Libya as examples. He went on to say that the West imposes sanctions against the Syrian people and arms and funds the opposition because the western powers want the violence to continue in order to fragment Syria and eliminate its role in Middle East.

Dr Jamil, who some tip to become Syria’s next premier, says that the political process is the only way to solve the Syrian crisis.