16 Feb 2012

New constitution announced in Syria

5:24 am on 16 February 2012

Syria says a referendum will be held on a new constitution on 26 February.

State media report a clause which made the ruling Baath party the exclusive leader of politics and society is not in the new constitution.

But with government forces continuing their attacks on opposition strongholds, opponents say they are sceptical about the reform process.

President Bashar al-Assad received a copy of the proposed new constitution on Sunday. State news agency Sana said took a national committee four months to produce.

Sana did not go into detail about the draft constitution, but officials said it did not include Article 8, which made the Baath Party the exclusive leader of both politics and society.

The Baath Party came to power in a military coup in 1962.

Officials also said the draft stated that the president could hold office only for a maximum of two seven-year terms.

Mr Assad, who succeeded his late father, Hafez, has been in power since 2000.

Officials said new political parties could also not be based on a religion, profession, or regional interests.

The BBC says this would prevent the Muslim Brotherhood and Kurdish groups establishing parties.