On 26 February, there was a referendum in Syria. The referendum approved the country’s new constitution. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency, the turnout was 57.4% and 89.4% of those voting approved the new constitution.
The new constitution replaces the 1973 constitution, the text of which is available here. An English version of the 2012 constitution is available here. There is another source here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the country’s historic links to France, the constitution is semi-presidential.
According to the constitution, the president is directly elected for a fixed-term (Art. 86). There is a PM and Cabinet (Art. 118), and they are collectively responsible to the legislature (Art. 77). Art. 97 does not indicate that the president has the power to dismiss the PM. However, Art. 121 states that the “Prime Minister, his deputies and the ministers are responsible before the President of the republic and before the People’s Assembly”. So, I would class the constitution as a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism.
The Syrian Arab News Agency reports that the Constitution came into effect on 27 February.
It goes without saying that Syria is not a democracy. Moreover, regular readers of this blog will not need to be reminded that the term ‘semi’ in ‘semi-presidential’ does not mean that the president is only fairly powerful. So, labeling Syria as semi-presidential does not imply that there has been a shift in the actual distribution of power in the country. Clearly, President Bashar al-Assad still dominates the regime. However, constitutionally, another semi-presidential regime has been added to the list.