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New Syria constitution limits presidency to 2 mandates

A Syrian committee on drafting a new constitution decides to limit presidential terms to two seven-year mandates

AFP , Tuesday 24 Jan 2012

The committee tasked with drafting Syria's new constitution has decided to limit presidential terms to a maximum of two seven-year mandates, Al-Watan newspaper said on Tuesday.

The draft constitution will be submitted to President Bashar al-Assad in "the coming days" before being put to a referendum, said the newspaper, which is close to the government.

Assad on January 10 said the referendum would be held early March.

The committee "decided to limit presidential terms to two seven-year mandates," said the newspaper citing an informed source.

The new text also provides for the abolition of the presidential referendum which has been in force since 1971, replacing it with pluralistic elections.

"If one of the candidates fails to secure 51 per cent of the vote, a second round is expected between the two candidates" who secure the largest number of votes in such an election, the newspaper said.

Each candidate must obtain the support of "15 per cent of members of parliament," which has 250 seats, to qualify to run in the elections.

Assad, who is facing an unprecedented uprising against his regime, appointed on October 15 a committee tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Under the current constitution, which dates to 1971, the president can be re-elected for an unlimited number of mandates. The late president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, ruled for five consecutive terms.

Assad succeeded his father in 2000.

The newspaper did not specify whether the new constitution would have a retroactive effect. President Assad is due to complete his second seven-year mandate in 2014.

The committee also proposes to scrap article 8 of the constitution, which enshrines the ruling Baath party as the "leader of state and society," replacing it with clauses on "political pluralism" and "free elections."

The removal of this controversial article has been one of the central demands of the opposition since protests erupted in March.

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