The work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee was suspended for nearly 9 months for several reasons, the most important of which are the incompatibility of the parties and the spread of the Coronavirus. With the suspension of the work of the constitutional committee all the political and negotiation works related to the political solution of Syria and the local activities related to the same context were suspended as well.
In late August 2020, the constitutional committee returned to work and conducted the third round of meetings in Geneva.
Immediately after the return of the Constitutional Committee members from the third round meetings in Geneva, the Stabilization Support Unit has restarted the activities within the scope of its initiative/path that named “Participation of the Local Community in the Political and Constitutional Processes’’.
Last week, the Stabilization Support Unit has made preparation and held three workshops inside Syrian and one workshop in Turkey Gaziantep to let the Syrian local communities discuss with the constitutional committee members about the third round of the Constitutional Committee meetings that took place in Geneva and about the political processes. The workshops targeted many local communities/groups.
The first workshop was held with the participation of the Constitutional Committee, representatives of professional/scientific unions, gatherings, and representatives of civil society organizations.
The second workshop was held with the participation of the Constitutional Committee, Free Aleppo University presidency, the faculty members, the administrative staff, and students.
The third workshop was held with the participation of the Constitutional Committee, ministers, and members of the Syrian Interim Government, the local councils, local institutions, and representatives of Military Factions.
Each of the workshops divided into two sessions:
The first session: about the third round of the Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva, the most important things/discussions/incidents that took place in it, and the committee’s aspirations for the future and course of its work
The second session: about the political paths and the recent international positions from the third round of the constitutional committee meetings, a reading about Lavrov’s visit to Damascus, and Walid Muallem’s statements about the presidential elections and the Constitutional Committee.
The first session:
Mr. Hadi Al-Bahra, the co-chairman of the Constitutional Committee, spoke in each of the three workshops about the three rounds of the Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva, and about the evaluation/development in each round, as well as the implications of the delay in holding of the meetings of the Constitutional Committee and its causes.
Mr. Hadi Al-Bahra expressed that the three rounds are considered positive in terms of fixing/determining the positions and he considered them as a prelude to a sound start of the negotiation processes to begin writing the constitution. He also underlined, that although it took a long time, now we can start with the contents of the constitution on clear grounds/basis, as positive discussions took place in the third round which focused on principals such as national identity and national foundations and principles.
Mr. Hadi said: ‘’the regime’s delegation presented ideas and an unwritten proposal for the opposition delegation which in turn formulated it by adding and editing some ideas. Civil society organizations’ delegation also presented two written initiatives/proposals in the same regard and the ideas were generally not divergent to each other, but there was no final agreement on those proposals.
The regime’s delegation wanted to adopt them, but as principles that have nothing to do with the constitution, on the other hand, the opposition and some members of civil society organizations’ delegation insisted that those principles be an introduction and entrance to the constitution so that the constitution be officially started to be written and this is what the regime has obstructed .
However, Mr. Hadi stressed that the next round will be important and articulate because the regime no longer has justifications for delaying further the process of starting writing the constitution.
He also explained about the problems they faced on the first day of the meetings of the third round, as four members of the regime delegation tested positive in coronavirus tests, but fortunately, the virus was weak as they did not show any symptoms so the decision was to resume the meetings after two days of quarantine without the participation of the infected members.
Many of the attendees in the workshops discussed the schedule/timetable for the meetings and work of the Constitutional Committee, in terms of the official start and estimated time to accomplish the draft constitution.
Mr. Hadi emphasized that the provisions of the constitutional contents (generally) are based on the negotiation processes with the regime and that they require a great consensus in the constitutional committee and international pressure to reach that consensus and pass the provisions.
There were positive views from the participants in the workshops. Many of the participants stressed the importance of holding such workshops with local communities. They said that they heard new ideas from the constitutional committee members and that the perceptions they gained through the misinformation circulated in the social media have changed. They also referred to that these workshops are great experiences as they provide the local communities the opportunity to meet and discuss with the political figures that are concerned with the future of Syria.
The second session:
In the second session, there were discussions about the recent international positions regarding the constitutional committee and especially the third round of the constitutional committee meetings and the repercussions of Lavrov’s visit to Damascus and Walid Muallem’s recent statements about the presidential elections and the Constitutional Committee.
Mr. Hadi stressed that the Group of Friends of the Syrian People are still providing their support for the progress of the political process. He said that the Turkish and American delegations were present in Geneva during the third round of the constitutional committee meetings and that the Russian pressure was observed on the regime’s delegation to push it to be flexible in its behavior and dealing with the issue. The Group of Friends of the Syrian People are trying to put pressure on the regime and its allies through many means, whether it is political or economic pressures. He said that the recent statements of the regime’s foreign minister were as a result of those pressures. In the statements of the regime’s foreign minister, there was recognition of the Constitutional Committee and its work for the first time and that it is empowered to reform the constitution or write a new constitution, and that it will be subject to a referendum after its conclusion, and that the presidential elections are something separate from the constitutional process as they are working according to the constitution in force in Syria until the Constitutional Committee finishes its work and the constitution is subject to a referendum.
Mr. Hadi emphasized that after the constitutional referendum, the process of constitutionalizing the laws and restructuring institutions under the new constitution will begin .
This means that, even if the elections take place, the Constitutional Committee is empowered with mechanisms and monitoring of the implementation of the constitution, with this empowerment, the Constitutional Committee has dragged/pulled back many of the powers stipulated in the current constitution, which are the powers of the People’s Assembly and the President of the Republic, including the powers of the formation of the Constitutional Committee and the adoption of the constitution for a referendum without referring to the People’s Assembly or the President of the Republic .
Regarding Lavrov’s visit to Damascus, Al-Bahra said that we believe that it is the reason behind Al-Muallem’s statements that carry official recognition of the Constitutional Committee. This visit came for two reasons, namely, to put more pressure on the regime to proceed with the political process and also to conclude some trade agreements with the regime.
In conclusion, the attendees agreed with the co-chairman of the Constitutional Committee and the Stabilization Support Unit on several things, including:
– Holding additional workshops as requested by local councils in various geographical regions in northern Syria
– To give more importance to the scientific and professional unions/syndicates and to allocate specialists from them to follow up the progress of the workshops that will be held with them periodically
– To conduct repeated workshop with universities and local bodies and authorities
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