The UN is reporting that the 2007 local council (municipal) elections in Syria will be free.
If this is true, it marks the first truly free elections under the Baath Party. Currently, the candidates are all chosen from the National Progressive Front (i.e. Baath Party members, and allies of the Party). But in these elections, anyone could stand.
The announcement was made by Hilal Attrash, the Minister for Local Affairs. He said that even if a northern council elected members of Kurdish parties who wanted to pursue an agenda of independence, they would not be interfered with.
Aymen Abdul Nur, the Baath party member who writes the all4Syria newsletter argues that 2007 will mark a turning point in Syrian democracy. he believes Syria has no choice but to liberalise those elections. It’s needed to allow the internal ‘boiling’ pressure from civil society to let off some steam, and it’ll satisfy some external observers, it’ll also be necessary for Bashar to have a token ‘liberalisation’ after so many years of promises.
Abdul Nur is a Baath Party member, but is dissilussioned with much of the government – his newsletter has denounced government members by name, and his website has been taken down many times.
The true test of these promises will be in 18 months.