Syrian authorities responded to widespread anti-government protests with overwhelming military force. The internal conditions in Syria will continue to deteriorate, but what is now certain is that the Assad regime would eventually collapse. These developments mean that Syrian opposition groups must begin negotiating clear state-building strategies in preparation for Assad's fall. A post-Assad roadmap needs to be drafted as soon as possible to would prevent the country from sliding into a civil war or collapsing into a spiral of chaos.
As part of a roadmap, opposition groups led by the Syrian National Council must work together on drafting a one-year plan for a realistic democratic transition and electoral reforms, during which elections at all levels would take place and a new constitution would be drafted paving the way for a parliamentary democracy. A reform plan must guarantee basic freedoms, denounce sectarianism and violence, protect human and minority rights, and ensure the rule of law – this requires the state to be based on the separation of legislative, executive and judicial power.
To avoid becoming a failed state with enduring ethnic and religious divides, a proposed electoral model for Syria should build upon certain elements of democratic models of government, voting, party, and state systems. This requires careful institutional engineering to create a functioning multi-ethnic democracy that allows competitive elections across ethnic boundaries without discriminating against any members of Syrian society. To ensure its success, the Syrian electoral model should therefore be tailored to the intricate composition of the Syrian society.
This paper concludes by providing a vision on how the transition will deal with matters of creating a sustainable and consolidated democracy, what obstacles the new Syrian government will face, and solutions for consideration by future decision-makers.
* Published in collaboration with Hivos