Syria prepares for a plebiscite -- held on Monday (12 March) -- to give the country its first permanent constitution for twelve years.
Syria prepares for a plebiscite -- held on Monday (12 March) -- to give the country its first permanent constitution for twelve years. All Syrian nationals -- men and woman -- aged 18 and over were eligible to vote and some two million were expected to take part.
Preparations for the plebiscite were extensive. The Interior Ministry set up over 6,000 polling stations in towns and villages and organised hundreds of mobile units for use by Bedouin desert nomads, hospitals patients and military garrisons. Special booths were also established at ports, airports and frontier posts so that Syrian travellers and nationals living in neighbouring Lebanon could vote.
The Plebiscite coincides with the tenth anniversary of the ruling Arab Beath Socialist Party's coming to power. The plebiscite is a sensitive issue. Disturbances in central Syria started in Hama in late February and Syrian authorities said four people died in Hama rioting, minor demonstrations were dispersed in Hama and Aleppo and two sticks of dynamite were thrown in Damascus. Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Ayoubi attributed the unrest to political rather than religious, motives. President Hafez al-Assad, who seized power in a bloodless coup just over two years ago, warned that he would crack down on attempts to foment agitation and there were no further reports of disturbances up to the eve of polling.
Two previous referendums were held under General Assad's rule. The first was on General Assad's election as President in March 1971. It was approved by a 99.2 per cent majority. The second, on the issue of joining Egypt and Libya in the Federation of Arab Republics, was held in September that Year. It was endorsed by a 96.4 per cent majority.