Syria's New Constitution Endorsed by 89% Voters
February 28, 2012 • 8:45AM

Around 89% of Syrians approved a new constitution, proposed by President Bashar al-Assad, in a referendum on Sunday Feb. 26, state television said Monday. Turnout in the referendum was 57.4% nationwide, state television said. Fewer voters turned out in the areas of Rukneddine and Barzeh, where anti-government protesters have recently demonstrated.

The new constitution puts an end to over five decades of one-party rule by the Ba'ath Party, and introduces a Presidential limit of two seven-year terms. The reform, however, would come into force only at the end of President Bashar al-Assad's current term of office, in 2014.

Unlike Germany, and the western countries in alliance with the multitude of Syrian opposition, which called the referendum a "farce," Russia welcomed Syria's holding of a constitutional referendum ending the Ba'ath Party's monopoly on power in the country. "I think that those who see this as a move toward democracy are right. The end of a monopoly position by one party in the political system should be welcomed," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference with diplomats from Myanmar.

The two main umbrella opposition groups, the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, had called for a boycott. Other groups had called for a general strike.

Despite the boycott call, Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that the percentage of voter participation proves that "the influence of those opposition groups that called for boycotting the referendum is restricted and gives them no exclusive right to speak on behalf of the Syrian people." A statement issued by the ministry explains that the referendum "is an important step in the path of reforms started by the Syrian government towards a modern democratic state and a new Syria."